Digital Domain Partners With India’s Reliance MediaWorks

Huge news:

Reliance MediaWorks, a division of the media conglomerate Reliance ADA Group, said Monday that it has partnered with the Venice-based visual effects house Digital Domain to open studios in London and Mumbai, underscoring the increasingly global nature of California’s visual effects industry.

I’m not surprised by this move. All the big vfx and animation companies in California have partnerships with Indian companies: Imageworks India, Rhythm & Hues, Dreamworks Animation, and now Digital Domain. When Imageworks purchased Frameflow in 2007 and opened operations in New Mexico, the fear was all the work would just go to NM and India. That has not been the case with the bulk of the work still being done in Culver City.

Reliance is looking to become a big financier in the film industry. Last year it purchased half of Dreamworks live action division. Again, much of the vfx work for Dreamworks live action films such as Transformers was done in California.

Regardless, the picture in the vfx industry is getting interesting: The big facilities in California, ILM, Digital Domain, Imageworks,  and Rhythm & Hues are getting bigger. I think TAG’s Biz Rep Steve Hulett says it best: The vfx pie is getting larger with more slices to share. In fact, if you were to look at TAG’s membership, it’s at a historical all time high.

Soldier On.

28 Responses to Digital Domain Partners With India’s Reliance MediaWorks

  1. once again your post shows a lack of insight. Imageworks tried to move most of its work to NM. Green Lantern was supposedly done to 70% in ABQ. that they ran into trouble at the end and needed to rap up locally because of the available talent pool dilutes this important fact.

    • VFX Soldier says:

      Andreas, where do you get this 70% number? Everytime you post that I’ve asked you to explain that number. When you say 70% of the work was done in NM, that implies the there were more workers in NM than LA. That’s just not true. The numbers simply do not add up. Show your work.

    • Marcus says:

      Mmmh, does the NM facility still produce or is it continuing to wind down? I haven’t really kept up, but from what I heard here and there since they opened that branch, NM didn’t work out that well?!

      • Ymir says:

        NM worked out just fine. Getting ready to gear up again in a couple of months.

      • Marcus says:

        That’s sort of what I meant. I guess I was expecting NM to not just be a hire-fire facility. Silly me🙂

      • Ymir says:

        Yeah, like all places these days, it’s predominantly project based. Summer is when the movies come out, hence, no work. But just like every place else, come fall, they’ll be ramping up. Not a large place (appx. 100 +/- full steam) it’s a very enjoyable place to work.

  2. Rolling Red says:

    Well. Very happy for TAG here, but this is simple growth due to more vfx work and more vfx workers in the studios with IA collective bargaining agreement in place. It is not a result of new organizing and new facilities being folded into the collaboration with IA. I have said this before, and this piece of news proves me right once again: IA won’t be successful in organizing major chunks of vfx industry until it establishes a *globalized* approach to vfx organizing. It has to overcome its structural limitations and seriously consider *alliance building with respective union counterparts around the globe*. In order to serve as a respectable counterweight aiming to represent the workforce of these rising MEGA studios – IA has to match them in their reach and flexibility that comes with diversified geographical locations. The longer IA waits and remains hostage to their quickly aging modi operandi – the less likely it is to be successful. It has crossed my mind, that IA is simply after the low hanging fruit of whatever random vfx facility happens to drop into their apron. The carefully calculated and limited organizing efforts I’ve witnessed, the resistance to take the globalized nature of vfx as a hint to the necessity of making the vfx organizing a global fight point to its limited commitment. Now, for the record, I don’t mean to vilify IATSE. Most unions these days and certainly any of the unions that would be contenders in vfx workers’ representation would be facing exact same challenges. Being critical is a process of identifying problems and: “A problem well stated is a problem half solved.” –Charles F. Kettering.

  3. Soldier: you’re definitely on to something here! There does seem to be a trend towards mergers and consolidations. And the bigger companies will possibly have more leverage and clout to avoid being taken advangtage by the Major Studios.
    Red: The IATSE is in fact coordinating it’s organizing in Canada, Los Angeles and New York city. Union organizing is also occurring in London. Unfortunately the legal system requires us to organize one company at a time. We are stuck with an archaic set of Labor Laws enacted in the 1930’s and we have to utilize the NLRB and its antiquated procedures. But as the companies merge and consolidate and get bigger and bigger, the high-skilled visual effects supervisors and other high-end workers will come to realize that they need the assistance of an organization to protect them from a hostile work environment. The lower-end work will get done in Mumbai, but the skilled work will stay where the highly skilled technicians insure that the tentpole movie gets delivered on-time and with effects that the public is willing to shell out $12.50 to go see.
    JimmyGoodman

  4. Scott Ross says:

    The big facilities do seem to be getting bigger….. internationally. The big VFX studios are looking to survive…. again, there is no bottom line. So, how do they do that? Volume. More revenue, less cost, government subsidies, tax incentives, educational facilities paid for by governments.

    I had a strange dream last week…. A major financier ( Indian or Chinese) buys SPI, DD, R&H and ILM. They all become one company. This newco has digital image manufacturing plants in India, China, Laos etc…. The big VFX companies are all bargains as there is no “there” there in the current state of affairs, so the cost to purchase is relatively low. Their purchase is not considered a monopoly as there are other alternatives, yet, they would ultimately control the hi end pipeline. That might change the way VFX are priced.

    Makes you sorta go hmmmmmmmmmm!

    • VFX Soldier says:

      Funny because I’ve had a similar thought, what if someone with deep pockets bought most of the major vfx companies and used the leverage against the studios. Or in my perverted view, what if someone just bought the talent instead (ie michael ovitz style vfx talent agency) and simple created vfx package deals for the studios.

      Question is, how much money would it cost? Remember when Sony thought about selling Imageworks and a 50% stake in SPA? That alone was evaluated at $500 million! Which begs the question for the latter proposal. Purchase the artists instead and create package deals. It would probably be a smaller investment and you could use it as leverage against the studios AND the facilities.

      • Ymir says:

        Imagine the profits!
        Now I understand the philosophy behind unions.

      • Scott Ross says:

        VFX Soldier…. Purchase the artists? How many? Whom? One would need massive membership to be potent…. “How does one purchase an artist?” Maybe Bob Coleman at DAA?

        One needs to start to get serious…. really.

  5. Mr. Ross,

    I’m not sure I really understand what you are saying because every industry which is maturing goes through a consolidation process. However, I don’t buy your argument that vfx will become one big company filled with Laos programmers. I think high end stuff will always exist, and it’s likely to stay in the USA. Movie folk are 1) artists and 2) incredibly wealthy. To me that means there will always be a market for high end visuals. Wealthy guys are not gonna want to deal with explaining their vision to some dood in bang lore. Now the low end stuff will likely move over, and that could cause some cost pressure… but the artists working here in the good old USA, will continue to work here as long as audiences and studios demand high end visual effects.

  6. Scott Ross says:

    I’m not saying that VFX will become one big company filled with Laotian programmers at all.

    High end stuff will exist… in fact, hi end stuff is what sells tickets. At present, hi end stuff is done in SF, LA, NZ and the UK… but, we all know what happened to other manufacturing processes…. they moved off shore to places that had cheap labor. This too will happen to VFX ( in fact, it is happening right now…). Now, that’s not to say that the top end creative talent will ever lose their jobs to cheaper talent… top end creative talent is after all, top end. But, l always used to say, “Pay attention to the 11th commandment!”, which is, ” Don’t believe your own hype”.

    In reality, most of the labor in VFX is indeed manufacturing ( hi end as well as not), not super hi end creative. So, we will continue to start to see the majority of the work move offshore to less expensive facilities. The VFX Sups, the DFX Sups, the Animation Sups will continue to be in SF,LA, London etc….but 80% of the pipeline will be in India and China and ultimately Laos, Cambodia and then Africa.

    Interestingly enough, the large VFX studios ( DD, R&H, SPI etc) are opening or have opened facilities in these lower cost countries. It will only be a matter of time before these large companies teach and instruct their new Indian/Chinese employees how to not only do the manufacturing part, but also to do the creative part. And at some point, all the work might be done in these countries.

    I’m not sure what you do Marko, but I can tell you that “wealthy guys”, as you say, become wealthy and stay wealthy because they figure out ways to spend less money while making more. And please do not get confused about studio execs and most blockbuster filmmakers…. they are not artists. They are about the money. And generally only about the money.

    Soldiers need to be smart and informed…. if, not, they are just body counts or collateral damage.

    • VFX Soldier says:

      Oh Scott there you go again.

      I have to wonder if you’ve actually worked with clients in India. Just recently I wrote about the huge problems with india’s Vfx: the costs are rising (salaries are rising 10-15% each year) and the quality was stagnant. He’ll they are even crewing Vfx artists outside of India to work on Vfx in their own Bollywood films.

      But I know I know, EVENTUALLY it will all go to india. Yet look at the companies you site: rhythm, dd, and Sony. Rhythm started their facility in India 11 years ago and yet a huge majority of the work still gets done in la. Sony started their division in 2007 and mostly mm, paint, and roto is getting done there. Some wonder if dd is partnering up with reliance just to add value to the ipo.

      I almost feel the cost savings are not from doing the work in India but to use fear to prevent costs from rising here!

      • Scott Ross says:

        spent some time at some major facilities in Mumbai and Chennai. They are not quite ILM… that’s for sure. But neither was WETA, Orphanage, BOSS, DD, The Mill, CFC, etc….. It’s only a matter of time….training and need.

        Don’t believe thine own hype.
        Get informed and get organized.

    • I think people overestimate the benefits with outsourcing and underestimate the contribution by artists with experience and a talent for stunning visuals. Nevermind the weak dollar, or rising costs ot the end of incentives in certain states. Even if India and China train their artists it will be a long time before they catch up to speed and can deliver even 1/2 the quality of a seasoned vfx artist here. It took this industry over 20 years of innovation and trial and error to get to this point and I just can’t see how it’s possible for new artists to catch up to speed overnight. From my experience the work that we outsourced to India from SPI had to be redone usually. I personally had to send notes on Watchmen to India’s roto artists, with drawings and detailed instructions, to explain to them how we needed the roto done after they gave us unusable mattes. It was a mess, and those were just mattes!!! Not a complicated live action composite with hundreds of layers!!! They did get better and eventually we got what we needed but it was not an easy process and in the end, ended up costing the company MORE money because it took 3 times as long to complete and delayed everyone working on the shot to bring it to final while we waited for revisions to be delivered. Some shots the roto was so bad we just threw it away and I pulled a green screen instead which took me only 1 hour of work. So, go ahead outsource as much as you want but you can’t replace experience and I beg to differ but a good artist with a good eye will in the end save the company money and not the other way around. I don’t have to try several things to know that one method is better then the other, and this is something that just happens with experience and practice, practice, practice! You gain an instinct for what will and what will NOT work in a shot. Plus, I believe proximity does matter and that is why James Cameron has chosen to build a new facility in Manhattan beach. Have some faith in the artistry of visual effects, it’s not all a ford assembly line. Visual effects is just as much an art form as it is a commodity business and to me they are two very separate aspects of the business. Visual effects attract people like me because we love visual effects! We pour our hearts and souls into every frame, every pixel, every hour that we spend in front of the computer, no amount of money can make someone do that if you are not passionate about the work!!! This is why we need to protect artists from predators who exploit their love of the craft because they know how much we love this job and would do anything to be part of that circle, even work for free.

  7. Scott Ross says:

    Soldier…

    I am old enough to remember when ” Made in Japan” meant cheap, crappy products. Twenty years later “Made in Japan” meant high quality, technologically advanced products. I remember when “Made in the USA” meant high quality, advanced products and when Sony Trinitron TV sets were all anybody wanted and “Made in Korea” meant junk… yet now the best monitors are Korean. As Bob Dylan once said,

    Come gather ’round people
    Wherever you roam
    And admit that the waters
    Around you have grown
    And accept it that soon
    You’ll be drenched to the bone
    If your time to you
    Is worth savin’
    Then you better start swimmin’
    Or you’ll sink like a stone
    For the times they are a-changin’.

    Soldier on….

    • VFX Soldier says:

      My point is that your “its all going to India” argument doesn’t ring true. Yes some work will go there and we are already seeing instances where Indian Bollywood films need Vfx done by people here.

      Consider your made in the Japan argument: yes the Japanese make great cars. The camry its the best selling car in the us and many of them are made in the USA along with the Prius.

      • Marcus says:

        IT industry… same fearmongering 10 years ago… didn’t happen. Rather, talented engineers moved to the US and europe for better wages. Efficient high end VFX is as much engineering as it is “art”. Please move on from this topic.

  8. Scott Ross says:

    yes, many years later and after Detroit was devastated.

  9. oh man, please tell me you did not just compare the VFX industry to Detroit’s car factory…. please say it ain’t so….

  10. Scott Ross says:

    no, Marko…. I didn’t.

  11. phew!!!🙂 Ok now I can go to sleep….

  12. […] week I posted about the huge news that Digital Domain was partnering with Reliance Mediaworks to manage a facility in India and a small team in Reliance’s office in […]

  13. Scott Ross says:

    a good IPO message….

  14. Fantastic blog! Do you have any recommendations for aspiring writers?
    I’m hoping to start my own blog soon but I’m a little lost on everything.
    Would you propose starting with a free platform like
    Wordpress or go for a paid option? There are so many choices out there that I’m totally confused ..
    Any suggestions? Bless you!

  15. […] surprising, the evolution of our #VFX business. Some interesting comments at @VFXSolider as […]

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