I thought this comment in a previous post was something many of us know about:
Each show starts out creative when you’re on the R&D team, then as production demands and noodling take over its hard to keep caring about the art and just try for finals. Kinda like version 299 thing. too many small changes, just change this, now this, now this, ad nauseum, finding/feeling what they want through lots of versions. There’s 2 levels+ of sups making lots of calls before the director ever sees it. Thats most of the waste. lots of extra work no one sees.
Ah yes. Noodling. The quality assurance process so many of us have lost so much time over. You would think quality assurance is something this industry strives for but sometimes it’s taken to a point where not only does it cost more, but leads to bad results.
Case in point is the way VFX on films are done. They are chopped up and sent to various vendors. Many of us who are artists work for these vendors and there is a gauntlet of approval process that goes like so:
I show a shot to my lead. He asks for changes that he wants so I go back and make the changes. He shows it to the CG Supervisor. He asks for changes that he wants and I go back and make the changes. The CG Supe shows it to the facility-side Digital Effects Supervisor and Visual Effects Supervisor. They ask for changes they want so I go back and make the changes. Finally it goes to the client side VFX Supervisor and ultimately the Director who say:
That’s not what I asked for at all.
And the process starts all over again. Mind you that any notes that need to be addressed have to go through the whole chain of command all over again. Multiply that by the number of shots and vfx vendors and you have yourself a pretty costly and bureaucratic process of getting something in front the head noodlers in charge.
Less people are actually working on the actual shot and more people are busy making decisions that are not what the client is asking for. Then there is the one person who blows the whole thing out of the water:
The Pixel Fucker
I remember one time a supervisor asked an artist to run through another pass just to move an object: Exactly one pixel over.
Is it really necessary to move that object and run it through the pipe all over again? Will this pixel determine the ability for this film to make money and get nominated for an Oscar? Of course not. So why did the pixel fucker obsess over that one pixel?
Probably the same reason some Leads, CG Supes, DFX Supes, VFX Supes, and Directors sometime give useless notes: That one pixel justifies their existence. It says “I’m here, I’m the boss and that pixel is worth every dime they pay me”.
Nevermind many of them don’t last a second when the tables are turned. One CG Supervisor known for his pixel fucking abilities was laid off and had to go back to doing shot work at another facility. Word immediately got out of his inability to do anything competently: “He is stuggling big time. People he used to supervise are showing him the basics!”
Quality Goes Down
While this quality assurance process can be costly, it would be worth it if it led to higher quality results. I’ve found this not to be the case most of the time. I’ve seen elements in their infancy look like Oscar winning masterpieces and somewhere along the way notes are given, knobs are turned, things are asked to go back and be done a different way leading to something that ultimately looks worse. Combine that with tightened schedules and it’s no surprise that many in the industry are noticing the VFX quality take a dive.
Does Adding More Links To The Chain Make It Any Better?
Some will say that I’m being a whiner for bringing this up but to tell you the truth I don’t mind it at all. I’m zen-like when it comes to stupid notes. As long as you keep paying me to go through 58 iterations of a shot I’m more than happy to do it. However, for the facility side producer and director I have a proposal that Dave Rand and former blogger VFX Law have touched on a few times:
How about letting us work directly for your productions instead of going through the vendors? You might save some money and get better results.