Yellow Perilism In VFX

One of the most routine answers about why we can’t solve problems in VFX industry usually goes like this:

China will use the most incomparable and advantageous labor force: the Chinese worker, who will be paid 5 cents, while our workers get five dollars or more. Our products will be evicted from the Chinese market; and then China will sell us its own products.

Sound scary? I bet. Would you believe that exact quote came from 1899?

People in western countries have always scared people into thinking jobs and industries will be taken away by someone in Asia. It’s called Yellow Peril and I’ve pointed that out a few times before here and here.

Soldier On.

 

200 Responses to Yellow Perilism In VFX

  1. Darkgaze says:

    It will be like this unless those countries get homogenized with the rest of the world.
    If there is something accepting those wages, that kills the rest of the world. One day, they will fight for their rights…

    This sounds very wrong… very wrong..

    • lockalsh says:

      One thing to keep in mind is that China has also artificially kept its currency under-valued. The Huan has been historically pegged to the dollar, with only minor floating, so the true value of chinese labor is unknown.

  2. vfx_cynic says:

    There’s nearly always a dash of racism added as well.

  3. sfd says:

    Can we go back on topic? Blame China, Pizza…
    Apparently problems arent pressing enough.

  4. vfxhobo says:

    There is historical context here. Anyone who says this post is not on topic, and or inherently racist, is completely missing the point or just not paying attention. The point is that the scare tactic that is still prevalent today got its start and was named (however inappropriately) before the turn of the last century. The point is that the herd will stampede in fear based on that which spooked the first cow. If you want to affect change, you have to stop believing the spook stories and just do it. If the industry is going to ship all the jobs overseas and you don’t want to go there, so be it, you’ll find a new career or you won’t. That’s largely up to you. In the mean time, what’s right is right, and right now it’s about organizing and getting the same rights, respect and working conditions that every other segment of the entertainment industry enjoys.

  5. Dave Rand says:

    Actually the fear that “all the work will go to India and China if we unionize” has been one of the top three objections to organizing.

    China has 1.3 billion people. India has a middle class larger than the combined population of North America. That is a lot of stories and ton of movie tickets.

    I look forward to the day when China and India they have a blossoming film business laden with stunning digital effects. India is already on it’s way.

    Maybe giving the 6 small groups of Americans some competition on story telling? I bet that’s leveler right there. Someone in a board room will eventually be saying “Ooops”

    If a director wants to take his virtual movie set and move it even further away through time and space and a dozen translators pointing iPhones at monitors displaying work the way we did it 15yrs ago… I say

    “Good Luck With That”

    I’ll bet whether we get organized or not will have little effect on that outcome. The other guild members that deal with digital media don’t seem to be having much of a problem with it either.

    Directors need to direct, and the best model is and will always be to do that in the same breathing space as the talent they communicate their vision to.

    • VFX Outside of Los Angeles says:

      I’ve worked remotely for years and the projects don’t seemed to have suffered for it. In many cases the directors have been on location, on vacation, or just doing something where they don’t want to spend 12 months of post in the same breathing space (particularly as many directors don’t even live in LA, London, Vancouver, etc.

      It’s not as if every artists in a VFX facility gets to sit in the same room as the director. They still get notes filtered through coordinators and supervisors.

      • Jack Boats says:

        The filtering of notes by coordinators is 80% of why shots have to be re-done. When the VFX Supe from the Studio was a PA appointed to the position on a whim you get notes like “It’s too video.”

      • VFX Outside of Los Angeles says:

        I’ve never worked on a show where the VFX Supervisor appointed by the studio was a PA just appointed to the position. I have been lucky enough to work with many experienced supervisors.

        Either way that doesn’t negate my point that even if you happen to work in the same city as the director, it doesn’t mean your likely to get any one on one face time with him

      • Jack Boats says:

        True you won’t get anymore face time and depending on the director that may or may not be beneficial. Every director is different some can speak the language of VFX and some can’t. Some depend on their staff to disseminate direction and others take a direct approach. Personally I find it easier to understand what someone wants when it comes from them directly and not filtered by a coordinator. Questions can be asked and answered and don’t need to wait for the mgmt to get a round to scheduling a meeting about the notes. The director can stream it in a video or write it in an email or walk over and yell at me, I don’t care I just don’t want to have to decipher what they really want after its gone through 2 or 3 people.

      • VFX Outside of Los Angeles says:

        I agree with what you’re saying Jack, in that you don’t want it filtered by production. A good VFX Supervisor should be able to work with the director and then pass through the changes, but as you said being able to see a video stream is great for the artists (especially for when anyone wants to review what was actually said).

    • vfxguy says:

      The talent directors need to communicate their vision to will be close by, and english speaking. The hands that actually do the work will not.

      • VFX Soldier says:

        An example of Yellow Perilism.

      • vfxguy says:

        I’m not sure what your original post was about apart from being vaguely racist. In 1899 westerners were predicting that the chinese would take over the manufacturing sector. They were right. Your point is?

      • VFX Soldier says:

        The reason why for the 1899 quote is to show that “yellow perilists” like yourself have argued Asians will take everything in western countries away. It’s a boogeyman argument.”

        While manufacturing declines during recessions, economic indicators show it is making a comeback:

        http://www.calculatedriskblog.com/2013/03/ism-manufacturing-index-increases-in.html?m=1

        This is why people read this blog, I stand on facts.

      • vfxguy says:

        What you call facts I call cherrypicking results from google to suit your argument. Here’s the first result for “jobs moved to china”:

        ‘In a recent study, the Economic Policy Institute analyzed American jobs lost to China between 2001 and 2011. During that time, “the trade deficit with China eliminated or displaced more than 2.7 million U.S. jobs, over 2.1 million of which were in manufacturing,” ‘

        http://www.nbcnews.com/business/states-have-lost-most-jobs-china-1B5929263

      • VFX Soldier says:

        I didn’t cherry pick anything: the manufacturing index is the leading economic indicator which shows a comeback.

        Your own source points out that the US is still one of the largest manufacturers in the world.

        Your yellow perilist argument is that us manufacturing all went to china. My point is that people have been trying to scare others into believing that for hundreds of years.

      • vfxguy says:

        I’m sure the 2.7 million people who had their jobs eliminated or displaced are comforted by your index.

      • VFX Soldier says:

        Do you acknowledge the fact that the US still has a huge manufacturing industry? Your own source acknowledges that. Your argument is that it’s all gone.

      • vfxguy says:

        No that’s the argument you want me to make. I’m arguing that China is dominating and it is.

        Manufacturing as a proportion of gdp has fallen by 60%. There are 30% less people working in manufacturing in this country than there were 50 years ago despite the working age population doubling over the same period.

  6. jonavark says:

    Odd that you would post this. This exact scenario has been occurring for the last 10 years in the electronics industry. Exactly the scenario in your quote. Are you trying to tell us that is a fantasy? I hope not. That’s the equivalent of putting your head in the sand.

    Every month I get calls to contribute to some part of a design. And I have personally seen the transition from simple replication of our designs to full on development and production of new designs. En Masse. If I had a dollar for every time I have heard “I would like you to do it but if not, I have 20 Chinese engineers who are ready to do it in a couple of weeks. ”

    American Electronics part suppliers hardly even carry stock here any more. The film/vfx industry is no different.

    • VFX Soldier says:

      “American Electronics part suppliers hardly even carry stock here any more. The film/vfx industry is no different.”

      Sorry but I’m starting to believe that you don’t work in VFX.

      • jonavark says:

        I work where I can. I have many feature film credits for VFX (40+) dating back to 1986. So what? If I tried to support my family and pay my mortgage on VFX work alone I could not survive. I lost interest in working for big companies a long time ago. About the time they started lining kids up on picnic benches with computers like sardines. I take overflow work and do it in my own offices.

        But what relevance? Since I work in more than one industry I can draw parallels. Perhaps tunnel vision is the problem here?

        The point you are trying to make here is erroneous and proven so by the many other industries we’ve lost to China. Pay attention to all of it soldier. Not just VFX. They are all the same.

        That said, I can safely say that your chances of success are zero. Sorry, but the cat’s out of the bag.

      • VFX Soldier says:

        How can you safely say my chances are zero when I still work in the industry and you don’t?

      • jonavark says:

        Well.. I am working on shots right now so.. blah.

        I can say your chances are zero because I haven’t yet seen a plan that promises to yield real results. I see flailing and anger but no real plan to fix anything. The reason is because vfx work is done everywhere now and you are powerless to change that tide.

        I work below the radar. Doing Animation and compositing for anyone who asks. Sometimes it is a big feature. Sometimes it is an industrial. I don’t care. As long as I don’t have to drive through traffic and deal with internal politics or join a union.

        What I see going on here is certainly depressing. You can either choose to go down with the ship or jump off and swim on your own. I saw this coming and jumped off a long time ago.

        So because I work for myself and do many things, you can ignore me. Or dump my posts if you wish. But I had to put in my $.02 about this post.

      • jonavark says:

        “Sorry but I’m starting to believe that you don’t work in VFX.”

        I have no proof that you do either Soldier! You first.

      • VFX Soldier says:

        If I didn’t work in VFX why is variety, the latimes, Wall Street journal, and many other news outlets reporting about my blog?

      • jonavark says:

        They don’t have any proof you work in VFX either Soldier. Your anonymity precludes any proof. So when someone posts a conflicting opinion on your site you don’t do yourself any good by attacking the messenger or their conclusions based on experience.

      • Jack Boats says:

        “Yellow Peril” is an unfortunate name and evokes racist connotations by design. However, you have to look past the surface of that meme and ask yourself who and why would some entity put this idea out there. From the surface, it looks like the reactionary words of Labor, fearing loss of wages and jobs to some kind of colored group of outsiders. Politically this serves the purpose creating the perception of a threat by another nation, specifically the “yellow” one, and furthers the interests of the military industrial complex as well as many political careers. From a business perspective, the term creates the perception in the American worker that they better work harder, faster, and longer and CHEAPER than the Chinese to keep their jobs. Obviously this perceptions serves the corporations well because it increases production and reduces labor costs.

      • John S says:

        If you’ve been working in VFX since 1986 and you still have a mortgage – forgive me – but you’re an idiot with your money.

      • jonavark says:

        That’s funny!

        I didn’t buy my house in 1986. I raised 3 kids and made it through the exodus of work from LA and still have my home, with considerable equity. Your comment is laughable!

  7. vfxhobo says:

    @jonavark: The vfx industry is inherently different in significant ways. We are not factory workers, though many times, we are treated as such. We are not engineers per se, though many have highly technical backgrounds that help them to create the art we see at the end of the day. Both culturally, socially, artistically, and perhaps even temporally, there are still huge hurdles to be overcome in order to successfully outsource a movie of the caliber of “The Avengers” over seas. I have a good friend at one of the larger animation houses that deals in full CGI kids television shows. They keep a core team based in LA, and farm out a huge portion of the work to studios in India. Every time they ramp up a pilot, it takes a year or more to get the studio up to speed on what they need in terms of quality, style, pipeline, deliverables… They routinely sink millions of dollars into development on a show. Tens of thousands on flights sending producers and supervisors back and forth business class to India and Taiwan to try and get productions back on track. So, before a show ever gets an order for a whole or partial season, HUGE amounts of time and money are sunk into them. They are routinely declined, or cancelled after a whole or partial season, and when that happens they can’t possibly be profitable. The sad thing is that these productions are not the type of thing that requires an army. 10-15 experienced artists, with the director, and creative team either in house or in the same area or even time zone could do these pilots in a matter of weeks for FAR less money that is being spent to send them over seas. Think about it. A note that requires a few minutes to correct when a creative is on site, can take days to turn around, therefore put a production days behind schedule when the work is being done in a time zone that is 16 hours ahead of where the deadlines happen. It is absolutely ludicrous to suggest that there is any financial sense in outsourcing that work. This business is an entirely different beast than the electronics industry or any other manufacturing business.

    The best model is always having directorial, creative and talent in one location.

    • jonavark says:

      Thank you for your post.

      Does your friend still farm work out to India then?

      There is zero difference between the two industries. Skills are learned and eventually they excel. The notion that only Americans can do this work is somewhat arrogant in my view.

      The exact same argument used to be heard often in the 90s about development. And I made the exact same points. And I was right.

      This is an easy parallel to draw.

      • VFX Soldier says:

        The more you try to compare VFX to manufacturing, the more I’m convinced you haven’t done actual VFX on feature films. That and other comments you’ve made are really starting to make me realize that.

      • vfxhobo says:

        I never once stated that only Americans can do the work. That was not my argument at all. Yes they still farm the work out. Yes it’s still a circle jerk. The reason they still do it is because the tax incentives and subsidies are too attractive for the bean counters to change there ideas. The problem is they dont see the forest for the trees. They’d rather look for a government handout then look at the reality of doing the same job here. They’d get a hell of a lot more pilots and potentially winning properties in the can for the same time and money invested. It’s a flawed model. End of story.

      • jonavark says:

        Soldier. I am not going to send you my credit list, since anonymity is the thing here. You know what I mean right?

        It doesn’t bother me that you think I haven’t worked in VFX. Not at all.

        What I am seeing now with VFX is exactly what I saw with product development. If you have only worked in VFX and nowhere else then I can understand why you are unwilling to accept my points.

      • jonavark says:

        @vfxsolder

        Manufacturing isn’t actually what I was referring to. But it’s part of the picture. Development, design, etc.. Almost the same structure as any other industry. Including VFX.

        There is a budget, creatives, technicians, engineers, deadlines, labor, approvals and a roll out. Same old same old.

      • VFX Soldier says:

        You keep saying you work I production development. What is that?

      • jonavark says:

        @vfxhobo.

        My comment about the notion that only Americans can do this work was a general response to what I read here.

        The fact is, people learn. If they are still farming work out, as you mentioned, then it is only a matter of time before the quality increases. A good percentage of VFX work is indeed done by generalists and if a school can crank them out every 2 years then anyone can do the work.

        Not to mention the fact that high end talent is training the competition. Also, large software companies are focusing their efforts in these countries to train and support talent and facilities.

        Are you guys really saying this won’t amount to real. tough competition?

      • jonavark says:

        @ soldier

        “Product” development.

        Someone asks me to write a package to record and playback axis data from camera rigs. Someone else asks me to develop something to control a render farm remotely. Someone else asks me to develop an iPhone compatible product and someone else asks me to develop something for an aircraft. Or a toaster. All the same stuff.

      • vfxhobo says:

        It will lead to real competition. Eventually. I welcome competition. As long as it is honest. Government subsidized competition is dishonest competition. That is the chief argument at this time. If you take the incentives away, the quality of the work, and the headaches involved in extracting it, do not justify sending the jobs over seas at this point. I have yet to work on a production where we did not spend many many hours of LA wages fixing work that was done on Bangalore wages. Lots of that time done in OT that was in fact paid. Where is the cost benefit on a level playing field?

      • jonavark says:

        @hobo
        Yes. I agree with all of that. But it is the way it is. You fix their work. The see the fixes. They don’t repeat the same mistakes next time. Eventually, you don’t fix their work. They fix yours.

      • Blacklight says:

        @vfxsoldier VFX does have an assembly-line, lever-pulling quality to it. We all know people who excel in one area of production but wouldn’t even know where to start in any other area. Hyperspecialization is a dangerous thing, especially in an industry as intimately tied to technology as VFX. You may get a union, you may stop the outsourcing of jobs, but you cannot stop technological innovation. Think about the jobs that existed 10-20 years ago that no longer exist today. Who knows which jobs will be obsolete 10-20 years from now. I agree that it is necessary to fight for workers’ rights today, but I think that we, as individual artists, must not allow ourselves to become comfortable with ONLY setting keyframes, or with ONLY rigging faces, or with doing only one hyperspecialized task, otherwise we are putting ourselves completely at the mercy of this volatile and constantly-changing industry.

      • Aruna says:

        Actually there is a difference. My brother did some outsource programming work in Asia. He flew over and had so many meetings, setting up the outsource team and helping manage it. In a nutshell, it wasn’t worth it. You had to hire an outsourcing manager just for the foreign team, and make sure that all the deadlines and items were hit. The timezone didn’t help, and the extra expenditure from flights and hotels was definitely not worth it.

        Sure, talent will increase, but so will the price. You think companies will still send roto overseas if it costs the same? I don’t think so. Same with all the other talents. Sure, you can teach someone a package, but the inherent problem solving skill doesn’t come easy. If you have two artists, one in a foreign land, one in another, and they make the same wage, do you really think they’ll head overseas? The only advantage right now for that would be a kickback from the foreign government to the studio.

        Even though schools are turning out a boatload of students, most of them are not what I consider production material. I still hesitate to hire any of them, and the ones I did I had to break the brainwashing they had received from those schools. There’s plenty of hubris in VFX to go around.

      • jonavark says:

        ” You think companies will still send roto overseas if it costs the same? I don’t think so.”

        No. I don’t. You are correct. It is the interim time that we have to endure and the question is whether or not US fx workers can weather the storm.

      • I need a proof!!! says:

        VFX Soldier: show your imdb!! Proof it! Chicken xxxx!

    • vfxhobo says:

      You’d think that, but apparently eventually takes a long time, because the same mistakes get repeated over and over and over again from project to project and year to year.

      • jonavark says:

        That’s gotta suck. But other industries have gone through the same process. I had these exact same discussions in 1996 about China. 17 years later they’re on top. We’re not. Largely due to a complete lack of any loyalty and a desire for ever increasing profit.

      • Jack Boats says:

        What about that process doesn’t feel like a factory to you or VFXSoldier? The VFX system has always felt like a factory to me, from my first look into the world as in intern at ILM I saw seas of cubicles many stacked with SW action figures and other remnants of these Production Artists disillusioned dreams. I think of them more of Artisans actually because of how the production environment specializes every aspect and defines every “artist” into on predefined role. I also was acutely aware of what that meant for some of these people’s futures. For instance, the guys that pioneered film scanning technology were very aware that the advent of High Def Digital Video was going to eliminate them very quickly. 15-20 years ago all matchmove was keyed by hand but I saw the advent of the first motion trackers being developed for Jurrasic Park. Even internally they kept it quiet because the “artists” might panic.

        Personally I can’t afford to be as pessimistic as jonavark and I would prefer that the industry rights itself because I do not have the time to sit and wait for these other countries to develop their own movie industries and leave me some work in this one, but I don’t disagree with what she’s saying. She’s absolutely right and this is happening in the video game industry as well as electronics. I over hear managers gleefully talking to each other about how great globalization is, because now they can just focus on design and marketing products (as if they new what that was) and not fuss with a bunch of artists and programmers about how to make it. They convince themselves that their own genius was responsible for the last blockbuster or successful product launch and that the team of people who gave it life were inconsequential and that they could just have easily outsourced. These ivy league managers and C-Staff with degrees in International Business Relations or whatever else that has no relevance to the craft of the industry they now control, don’t want to manage the project or products creation. They just want to pay a bill for it and the cheaper the better! That is the nature of capitalists and they are running the show. Due to these capitalists total lack of vision they are now faced with their own jobs being off-shored. They didn’t take the time to learn the language of their new labor supply so they are useless now and FINALLY they are worried. Do you think 500 VFX Artists would have even garnered a sneeze from the industry if the likes of MGMT folk like Ross hadn’t have given it a tweet?

      • VFX Soldier says:

        Here’s the difference:

        Take 2 iPhones. Compare them. What’s the difference?

        Nothing.

        Now take 2 shots from any film you worked on. What’s the difference?

        A lot of thjngs.

        In manufacturing you have a product that you duplicate over and over. You can predict and plan for it. You can manle machines that automate it and send it to places like china where the labor is cheap.

        VFX is different. Every shot is different and we keep trying to exceed expectations to produce something you have never seen before.

        Once you try to turn it into something repeatable people quickly notice and are not impressed.

      • jonavark says:

        In VFX there is a high percentage of the work that is routine. And the process, once you have your pipeline in place is a continual repeat of systematic routine. Of course, new processes require R&D and pipeline mods. But that’s all part of the routine as well. Just like new apps or hardware. That’s why you can hire interns to roto and track until the cows come home. And it gets easier every year as the software gets better and cheaper. Which is part of the reason work is going everywhere to be done by anyone.

        That’s no different than writing new apps for existing devices. Nor is it any different than the challenge of coming up with new products and updates for existing devices within a market timeline that are one step better than the competition.

        There is art, engineering and marketing involved in all of it. I know it is consoling to think of the VFX industry as something special but when all is said and done the similarities are there.

        The iPhone you mentioned is a platform for creativity. It isn’t the iPhone itself, it is the software that runs on it. Development teams are always working on new products under much the same conditions as art/engineering professionals everywhere.

        Having made my living in both fields I can see the fundamental similarities which bring me to my conclusion that VFX work can and will be done anywhere by anyone. It isn’t pessimism it is reality as I see it.

        You took my points rather hard, soldier. Seemingly offended by my take on this situation. But when you post a quote which ended up being 100% true I responded with my $.02.

    • Jack Boats says:

      If you are working for any of the BIG 8, you are a production artist which is another way of saying factory worker or if you really want to know what HR calls you: WRIST.

      This miss-perception by some VFX Artists is that somehow their opinion about the art they are making matters. When you are a hired hand on a production your job is to make someone else’s vision happen, if somehow that aligns with yours, consider yourself lucky. The big catch 22 in VFX like the TIger work done for Pi is that when photo-real is the end game the artist essentially must paint by numbers removing the ART of the craft completely. When sufficient plugins or tech are developed to paint by photo-real numbers faster than Artists can do it the Artists are replaced with Artisans and Technicians that can operate the machines that make the art. For me it doesn’t matter I always consider myself an Artisan when hired on a production I don’t get upset about my artistic vision being stifled because that’s not what they are paying me for. I found it odd that figure drawing classes were often used as a perk or whatever because 99% of VFX Artists never draw anything on the job besides doodling funny pics of the supervisor while they drone on for hours wasting all out time.

      • Jen says:

        The big catch 22 in VFX like the TIger work done for Pi is that when photo-real is the end game the artist essentially must paint by numbers removing the ART of the craft completely.

        I saw a film called Life as Pi last year, too, but I don’t think we saw the same movie. If you honestly could not see the art in that film’s VFX, you’re missing on what the Rhythm & Hues artists brought to that picture.

      • Scott Squires says:

        Photographers are tasked with capturing reality. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t artistic or creative. Lighting, composition, etc. all enter into it. Even in reality there is a lot of variety. Did the matte painter doing the sky simply project and paint by numbers the skies? Were all of the skies simply untouched photos? Didn’t someone have to paint the tiger? Isn’t there more than one pattern for a tiger?

        Everyday most vfx artists have to make some creative and artistic decisions. True, they’re not writing or directing a movie but they are exercising their eye. Even software developers have to be creative to do what they do and how they think. They, like most vfx artists, are involved in creating something. Creating an image or app that did not exist. Unless the director is hand doing the work himself they have left numerous details up to those actually doing the work.

        And even though vfx artists are employed that does not restrict them from being creative in their personal life or hobby. After all there are very few totally free artists that do not have to work for someone, directly or indirectly. I know a number of vfx artists who do paintings and write and do other more pure forms of art. Their job may not give them the ultimate form of creative expression but it’s close and allows them the pay to be able to do their creative passion even outside of work.

  8. no fair competition says:

    —–In some countries they work in these conditions: no fairness in the workplace, no racial or sexual equality, no pension, no safety in the workplace, no decent pay, no welfare. That’s whay their work is cheap. This is not fair towards these people (remember the chinese workers committing suicide in the factories that produce our lovely phones) nor towards people who would like to keep working with basic rights.
    Until these two worlds will be in the same market, there will be no faireness. How these two realities can be allowed to be competing in the WTO (world trade organization) is beyond me. In order to be in it, basic rights to all the workers internationally should be granted. This an issue much wider than the small vfx market.

  9. sfd says:

    Still think we are off topic. I would love us to focus on solutions rather than finding out who to blame. Does it matter if it is India or china or country xyz?

    • Darkg says:

      Yes. Indeed. Please!. Let´s get back.

      About north america doing great things: I talk from Spain. My company created RealFlow, top productions use it, and it’s been done in Spain, my homeland. Yes. Rest of the countries can learn, even when it comes slower.

      About the yellow perilism: The problem comes when even some work nearly for free. The same happens with the chinese shops (what’s their name in USA?). They sell very cheap products because their workers in India, China, don´t fight for their rights, they don´t protest, they suffer (or at least, they are still far from getting their wages right). The same happens with fresh blood starting on VFX, they accept working for free sometimes, and that´s so bad for the rest. big productions take advantage of it, obviously. It there weren´t those oportunities, they would think about it twice.

      That´s my humble opinion.

  10. Shihui says:

    I am from China, and definitely say, it’s almost the same price if you want hire the same level of talents. But if you want some shit animation, it may be cheaper, but not as the numbers here, $5 VS $0.05

  11. Frank N. Stein says:

    Part of the equation is competition right at home. The VFX and game job market is saturated as a result of schools cranking out VFX artists and technicians by the thousands every year. This causes wages to go down because there are all these young hungry graduates willing to work cheaper. Supply exceeds demand!

    I’m sure most of these students think they will have a cool, great career ahead of them. The sad thing is that many will not succeed at all in the industry, and the ones that do can expect only greater competition,lack of job stability and low wages in the future.

    It can be awesome to work on all the great productions in this industry. However, lets not kid ourselves about what modern VFX and game jobs are really like. It is very much like assembly line work. Not as monotonous, and it can be artistic certainly. But most of the process is craft, not real art. In the big picture we are like gears in a machine, sitting all day in front of a computer doing what we are instructed to do. It is a giant, collective effort, and therefore difficult for the individual to have any real power.

  12. Textor Ass says:

    VFX Racists! fucked for life!!!

  13. Q? says:

    This website “vfxsoldier” certainly target in wrong agenda from the beginning. This post clearly show those initiators direct the current VFX in wrong causes. We should direct the agenda to those VFX company, studio and all the movie instead picking on international movie production such as “Life of Pi” Because Hollywood is international business should not soloy include VFX from London and US worker and Exclusive rest other countries.

  14. Michael Michael says:

    That’s why we need to incorporate workers rights and human rights into the WTO trade agreements. We should not be trading with rogue nations that deny the right to organize, imprison and murder union organizers, ignore human rights, or trash the environment as a cost cutting measure to compete with the products of other nations. In the 90’s we had huge battles over trade issues — NAFTA, Fast Track, admitting China to the WTO — all culminating in the 1999 “Battle in Seattle” when a broad global coalition succeeded in shutting down the city and disrupting the WTO ministerial being held there. As it turned out, we won the street battle and the media battle, but 13 years later, we’re no closer to our goal of Fair Trade.

    The runaway film jobs issue, especially the VFX part is very much a part of this issue. The leading grassroots organization in support of fair trade is Citizens Trade Campaign (CTC) http://www.citizenstrade.org/ctc/ Check out the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) Free Trade Agreement now in its 16th round of secret negotiations. When it’s done the administration will attempt to ram it through Congress with Fast Track. This stuff isn’t rocket science. It’s complexity is nothing compared with that of Visual Effects. The CTC site has all the resources needed to come up to speed on the issues and they’ve created a coalition of 400 organizations to fight against Fast Track and the TPP. They are experts at grassroots lobbying and they know they know their way around Capitol Hill. Hook up with CTC and your issue will no longer be confined to the world of entertainment, but will be entered into the halls of power.

    Regards,

    Michael Everett, IATSE728

  15. sfd says:

    lol, by the time we will still be stuck in a debate about the role of china in early 20 century… Nothing constructive will come from this.

  16. rtagore says:

    That’s really racist, especially when you’re using a quote from the time when European countries colonized(which also took the recources of the colonized countries-besides the slavery-human labor and killed many millions) many countries in asia and africa.
    But hey, I’m guessing, whatever happens now is still better than being colonized/put into slavery(real slavery, not the 1st world problem slavery type), yeah?
    What a load of bullshit.

  17. Applause and Concern says:

    VFX Soldier, I applaud you for your work on unionizing and creating a fair and level playing field. My concern is that while you may have a valid point in this last post … speaking of a “Yellow” Peril, even as a scare tactic, does sound a bit politically incorrect.

    • Mike B. says:

      @Applause

      You obviously missed the point of the post. Your political correct knee-jerkery blinded you to the fact that VFX Soldier is calling bullshit on the current paranoid conspiracy theory that Asia will take everyone’s job, just as those in the 19th century believed.

      • Applause and Concern says:

        @Mike B.
        Nah, didn’t miss the point at all. Read my post again. I actually mentioned that VFX Soldier pointed out the use of “Yellow” Peril as a scare tactic … and in your words “paranoid conspiracy theory”.
        And furthermore, I support VFX Soldier’s work.
        But disagree with the use of politically incorrect verbiage.

  18. bobafett says:

    Aren’t most movie theater companies already owned by the Chinese anyway?

  19. Unemployed says:

    Yellow Peril already began, India and Latin America will also hop in.

    VFX was an Art 10+ years ago when there was an Art to achieve something visually great and unique, it was something expensive, risky and the best was only created by certain art studios with inhouse tools combined with real stuff going on IN shoot location, IN LA.

    Technology was the first enemy. Computer power grew and parts costs dropped. This opened the first door to the East on VFX.
    The second door was opened by big software developers who did a great job creating tools that are very user-friendly and a novice can deal with them not far from a senior does.

    Unfortunately The union will not work because VFX are just numbers, numbers can travel from one country to another by FTP like a ghost. They are not Hardware, they used to be a combination of Hardware and Software but now they are plain virtual. VFX is not like an object like Make up powder on an actor face where the art has to be done IN movie studio. Triangulation will always apply and Union is not able to monitor FTP’s transfers and deals. VFX is not art anymore, there is no experimenting anymore with real fire or a real ocean. The Director says I want this like this and like that, VFX is a service now, lowest price gets the job cause there is a minor difference between super studios and middle ones. The East started already with Roto and will continue with the rest. Their prices wont gain according to talent, they will take the whole world of CG within 5 years.There will be some VFX services in LA going on but it will be a cheap service and It wont worth the headache for the VFX Artist to go for it, so only those who really love VFX will still do it for cents. The problem is that due to currency exchanges, those cents are nothing for the LA Artist but those cents are good money for the one in the East, that will make him successful and will be ready to gain more experience in the field.

    The Union will be somehow useful and will do a regulation from now until 2018 but the East will be ready for serious VFX by then.

    • Dave Rand says:

      Nothing can ever replace directors working with artists in the same breathing space. it’s much like talking to you child on the phone as compared to talking in person. A fraction of communication about creativity goes over a wire and through a layer of translation,

      • vfxguy says:

        I’m beginning to think you don’t actually work in vfx dave. As much as you dream about being able to smell a director’s farts, most visual effects are directed by cinesync these days.

      • Dank says:

        I do agree that we should communicate with directors more, but I have talked to a director once maybe twice my whole career in VFX. The whole time living in LA. So keeping jobs in LA or North America isn’t going to fix the communication issues we have. I wish it would.

      • alex lim says:

        @vfxguy, you wanna bet 10,000 USD that Dave Rand is in this industry, working on, and finaling shots on a feature film project?

      • VFX Soldier says:

        I’d double that!

      • vfxmafia says:

        To VFX guy…

        I agree and disagree about the directors working with artists…to get a better product. I think there are 2 types of film making in the business….one that wants to obtain the highest quality and push the limits of film making like Kubrick and Orson Welles…

        ….and then there is the 2nd type of film making…..the bottom line….where there is only hype and NO quality.

        There ARE directors who make the effort to work with artists like Dave Rand describes. For instance David Fincher will sit right down next to a matte painter….and shake his hand and say “Hi Im David….this is what im looking for”……

        David started out as an ILM FX camera man…..

        Guillermo Del Toro is another master who will shake your hand as an artist…….He literally built a house to work with concept artists…..called “The Bleak House”

        For all you haters out there…..hear it from GDT himself! Needs and treasures artists…..

        I would go so far as to say Neil Blomkamp (who is a VFX artist himself…..) is one of those directors who demands that extra from a studio…..and can SMELL when a studio cuts corners (cough, cough)

        to all you chicken hawks and internet trolls that come to this website…your probably been working in a B-movie movie houses that constantly throws in-expirienced artists at a shot……. like shit at a fan.

        you can always tell a bad director or a predatory producer….it always starts with “I know it when I see it.”

        I do agree with Dave….the BEST movies need that extra love of an artist…..both directing and from the crew…..I really feel sorry for all of you who call VFX a service……

        Because Im quite aware of all those “out of the box” shops who are getting shots pulled…….

      • VFX Outside of Los Angeles says:

        vfxmafia, I’m not sure if I’m following you. It sounds like if I was to say that you can work remotely with directors (and in fact that they are happy to do so), you’d think that I was someone who spends his time working at a B-movie house, and that the directors that I work with don’t care about pushing the limits or making films of the highest quality (and that I’m probably an internet troll)

      • vfxmafia says:

        Just saying VFX artists are not technicians. And was in a direct response to the vfxguy’s remark about smelling “director’s farts”.

      • vfxmafia says:

        To VFX outside LA

        I also have to add….it is imperative …if you are working remotely…..that you record the directors exact words…and that there be copies of the recording for the leads and lower artists to listen too.

        Alot of times guillermo del toro would cinesync from his “man cave” mansion but made it a point to have artists related to the scene be present….he really had a connection with the artists….(or at least it felt that way). He felt it was important to have a dialogue…..

        I was sighting GDT, Fincher, and Blomkamp because they are hands on directors.

        The layered bureaucracy that comes from remote working….can add to production costs that come from misinterpretation…..and effect the quality…..

        thats a fact of some remote work…….and im not pointing fingers at London…..look at Imageworks in Albuquerque New Mexico or if some people heard the stories about Cafe FX in Santa Barbara and Cafe FX Santa Monica…

        assets can get screwed up…escpecially between VFX houses….

        Remote work can go wrong sometimes….if its assets that get sabotaged or delivered wrong….or a cordinator interprets something wrong…..or its a supervisor who has his own interpretation before they show it to a director………..

        Have you ever play that game when your a kid….and one person..tells a person something…then they pass it down the line….and before its done……the last person who gets the message …has it all wrong…..

        I was not pointing fingers at London or Vancouver productions…
        I think there is top notch work coming out of London…

        the remote thing does have kinks …..

      • VFX Outside of Los Angeles says:

        @vfxmafia no one would ever argue that communication gets mixed upor at least more difficult the more people that it goes through. That’s true of any task in life. GDT may like talking directly to artists directly, most directors I’ve worked with don’t (especially the bigger ones). They want to talk to the supervisors and that’s it. I’ve worked on some shows where all they’ll talk to is the studio supervisor who we then have to deal with.

        Even if they wanted to talk to the artists who is that? The compositor? TD? Animator? Modeller? Shading artist? Effects animator? When you’ve got an hour of a directors time and you’re working on a huge number of shots you don’t have time for an involved conversation with everyone working on a shot.

        We all know that 1 on 1 works the best (usually), but somehow to me this has gotten twisted to “well it’ll work better in LA because hollywood is in LA so that’s where directors must be”, which simply isn’t true on several counts.

        I’ve worked all over the world at a number of places. I’ve worked with directors both in the same room and remotely, and in my experience of over 20 years it hasn’t ultimately made a difference to the work that we’ve delivered.

        If the mission is to remove subsidies, then this particular line is not one that’s going to help. Your opinion of course may differ.

      • vfxmafia says:

        To VFX outside of Los Angeles,

        Maybe I am guilty of “back in the good-ole-days”…type mindset.

        I have worked in the big shops in LA and do feel like a cog in the machine, under multiple layers of beuracracy, and wasted billing of man hours…..and prefer other business models

        I do prefer the 400 shots-and-under boutique houses…..We really did have contact with the directors. I had a chance to work on a Roland Emmrich film once where Roland did walk thoughs
        and stood at your desk…..while the Sups showed him every stage of the pipe……early on in the films development. It was really cool and inspirational…In some shops directors were courted through the facility……you didnt say much but his presence was known….often times there would be the giant “entourage” around a matte painters desk or maybe an animators desk…..

        often for certain scenes….leads and artists that were handling high profile shots or assets would be included in discussion….(not often speaking) but included in the group for exact direction

        but your right none of this has to do with stopping subsidies. (its probably the case that industry has changed so much since when i started back in the 90’s)

        you bring up alot of great points…..

        I guess the new factory age of visual effects if here to stay….unless all the 700+ person facilities business model blows up like a beached whale…

        maybe life is more enjoyable if you not working on the Dark Knight

      • Dank says:

        @vfxmafia. Not to burst your bubble but I just finished Pacific Rim, and I saw GdT once and talked to him once on a tour of the facility. Other then that had no communication with him and working on that film was no different then any I have ever worked on. He did request that all artist are to be in dailies but never directly or in directly address us in anyway.

      • Dank says:

        Oh and on Benjamin Button I never saw or heard from David Fincher. I would love for things to be different but as much as Directors care they can only or will only care so much:-/

      • Dank says:

        We should not look to Directors to help us, keep an eye on the prize. vFx artist everywhere need to stand together. Things are getting very quite out there.

      • vfxmafia says:

        To Dank,

        I was gonna ask you what your job function was on the GDT film but now that i think about it I probably was working next to you…..LOL…

        but your right directors aren’t gonna help us…..

      • vfxmafia says:

        And your right its getting really quiet out there……looks like R&H and DD are wrapping there projects sometime in August….

        I wonder if that is when Los Angeles falls……

      • Dank says:

        I hope this is just the calm before the storm, as a group we can do so much, and I hope that’s happening.

        Also not meaning to say anything bad about GdT or the project, just think our issues aren’t directors communication it so much bigger and more then that. We seem to continually dilute our issue.

        Subsidies need to end, and a VFX trade agreement needs to happen. Also VFX artist need one voice, if that’s union then shit sign them cards and get a vote happening.

      • VFX Outside of Los Angeles says:

        @vfxmafia. Probably like you, when I started 400 Visual FX shots in a show was massive. I also used to see the director come around, see the artists at their desks, make comments etc. We weren’t so compartmentalized so the guy doing the effects was also modelling and shading and lighting and compositing.

        I have to say I miss those days as well, but these days it does seem that the massive shows with massive crews mean that our relationship with the director has changed. When the VFX supervisor can’t even talk directly to the director (as has happened) then you know the world has changed.

    • VFX_Boom says:

      @vfxguy
      “As much as you dream about being able to smell a director’s farts,”

      Thanks for removing any legitimacy from any and all future arguments/posts you may provide. Less noise the better.

      • Jack Boats says:

        I actually thought he was making a good point. Having a Director sitting behind me isn’t going to solve the industries problems and it’s rather inconsequential at this time. When working in TV at the turn of the century, I remember the Inferno artists would always bitch about how much time they waste when the Director Producers and VFX Supe were there sitting in the cushy leather couches of the suite noshing catered fancy cheese and wines and making useless critiques and changes that derailed everything, but that company at least had the sense to charge them by the hour.

      • VFX_Boom says:

        What Mr. Rand was talking about was having the directors/producer working hand in hand to understand the process and getting answers immediately vs waiting 2 days. Having them understand why we can’t turn something around in 1 day when it’s an impossible task in that time frame would remove some of the Black Box mentality from the client side. Thus less time to get the final product out, saves everyone money. Direct, informed feedback.

        Of course this is dependent on Directors/producers knowing what they want and not being complete hacks, as most are these days.

      • Jack Boats says:

        Waiting for answers is infuriating especially with insane deadlines. That will not change with the current way FX houses work, because the client doesn’t care about your problems and can only answer the questions they are presented with or have answers for. The coordinators don’t want to upset the client or look bad so they don’t ask. Then you have coordinators that are just as concerned about getting onto another job after the current one that is a mess is over so they will kiss whoevers ass they think will secure them a new production. I had a VFX supe who was a character animator so he blew 80% of the man hours on the cartoon dog shots, crippling the FX shots that were much more difficult and were just as important to the final film as the dog, but this guy was so hung up on the dog that he fucked the rest of the production. Odd how that guy kept a job while a lot of Artists were being dumped after the show wrapped. Mgmt always protects it’s own, because if they admit one of them is the problem they all become suspect.

  20. cgChina says:

    Some time ago I made a post under the username vfxChina, unfortunately I can’t remember the login so I’ll link and paste it with this login:

    old thread:
    https://vfxsoldier.wordpress.com/2013/01/03/were-funded-so-whats-next/#comments

    (user: vfxChina)
    copy and paste:

    as someone who has worked in China for VFX houses I feel the need to pipe up and give you all a little perspective on the whole “China will take all the business anyway” thing.

    It may feel like the under-licensed, cheap rate labour there will win all the bids- and sometimes they do get a fair chunk of work from studios looking to save a buck. But the way business is done means that this is not the threat you think it is:

    – Chinese VFX shops (hell, and the Chinese) focus on one thing only- the cash. They overpromise on quality but don’t invest in bringing in the necessary talent and maintaining their infrastructure- often they can’t deliver to expectations. But hey you get what you pay for; if you want reliable high end VFX go somewhere that knows what they are doing and pay for it.

    – Talent: The Chinese educational system produces people that are great at following instructions and repeating tasks. Not people that can creatively solve a problem that requires initiative, and not people that will find a way to solve a systemic problem instead of throwing more hours at it. Couple that with many other fundamentally different culturally driven behaviours, a severe lack of skilled artists, a firewall that maintains the inwards focus of the population, no Chinese documentation (or the initiative to look for it) etc and you will find that these VFX shops are stocked with a bunch of juniors that won’t be able to deliver the goods. Shops can’t retain their skilled artists as when these guys finally figure out that it doesn’t have to be so f*cked up they will get a job in a country that operates more smoothly.

    – The Chinese are 1/5 of the world’s population and from a culture that is 2500 years old (or some big number like that). Soon their economy will eclipse the State’s, and their film market will no doubt be bigger at some point too. Over time they will overcome some of their systemic problems and service that market, soon you may find your studio doing a bit of work for Chinese clients too. Wanda group now owns AMC, the Chinese film market is growing by triple digits every year (don’t have a definite number for you or reference) etc etc. What I’m getting at is that the West will still be a market for VFX, and China will be too. Look at it as an opportunity and get comfortable with this shift towards Asia and Asian cultures.

    Speaking of which, here’s the latest from Chinese cinema: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aRy5PJWL1T4

    Get some perspective, I suspect this applies to India too. Yeah the Chinese will get a bit of work; but they can’t do the good stuff and their business practices can be shockingly bad, the costs are going up too. You might see some bids go there but people will figure out that the work is being done by unstable companies with poor track records.

    You get what you pay for.
    Outsource on.

    (yeah bad pun)

    ——–

    I’ll copy and paste a reply to the pasted comment at the start by another vfx worker:
    (mrChina)

    I Have to agree with vfxChina there… Having spent some time over there. There are some very talented artists… but there is little or no decent creative oversight. The Chinese companies don’t want to pay for good leads to come in.. They would rather save $5 today than $50 in a month.
    They can certainly compete on simple stuff like wire removal, and blood splatters… But costs are rising in China, and soon there will be little advantage cost wise. There are also not many decent sized facilities…
    I can only think of 2 with a staff of more than 200 (Most of whom are inexperienced college kids).
    Neither of these companies are capable of headlining a show. One particular Chinese company was deemed “Too Expensive” by Stereo-D, who I think pay in the mid to upper $teens per hour in the US to do stereo conversion roto work!.
    Even setting up companies run by successful US studios (Dreamworks) will have the same challenges finding decent talent to run their shows.
    More importantly the Chinese management mentality is not inclined to long term thinking. They don’t see decent leadership as an investment… more an unnecessary expense… Because you can just put 10 cheaper locals to do the same job???
    Of course that doesn’t work.
    They can talk the talk.. but alas cannot walk the walk!
    Also beware if you are invited out there on a contract… They can and will dump you and tell you the contract is not binding!
    The Chinese courts will ALWAYS side with a local company.

    I don’t think I came across a single stable company all the time I was there.

    ———-

    A note on Unions:

    Forming any kind of union, worker organisation or even a public gathering is by and large illegal in China as it would be a challenge to the government’s power. Apparently there are instances of mass strikes etc but information is patchy about what it could lead to RE lasting bodies.
    http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/3ee205de-6c5a-11e2-b774-00144feab49a.html#axzz2N3Ckh2ci

    TLDR: The government says “sure we will support the idea of making unions” but it remains to be seen how and when they will step in and interfere. Also, these unions are typically within massive manufacturing companies, not spread over many small companies.

    ———-

    One thing I hope many will come to understand is that China is an incredibly complex society and will soon be the world’s leading economy. Trying to simplify things to us vs them, cheap labor vs our labor and other “yellow peril” knee jerk bullshit only demonstrates how ignorant you appear to people that have done business there.

    Whether you like it or not the future is in Asia- educate yourselves.

    • nobody says:

      “One thing I hope many will come to understand is that China is an incredibly complex society and will soon be the world’s leading economy.”
      woot? U chinese pple fuck with each other so much and give a birth to so many children that there is no place on this planet for others, just few years more and you will be everywhere even on Mars; it’s time to THINK what you do, sex is not everything and it’s not most important; leading economy? You mean leadin procreation

      • Applause and Concern says:

        @nobody
        I’m not Chinese, but its no secret that: “China’s fertility rate – the average number of children a woman has in their lifetime – is 1.6, which is lower than the rate in the UK and the US.”
        http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-19630110

        Lets stop with this ridiculous anti-China nonsense and unionize already.

  21. A Voice says:

    This is the center of the problem

    • A Voice says:

      ILM in 2012 brought in $230 million in revenue. Their operating cost is around $220 million. 1% profit?!?!?!?! If 1 movie does not go well that year, they will collapse. Keep in mind that $230 millions are for multiples movies in the pipeline for ILM.

      By comparison, Pixar brought in $250 million in 2005 and it cost them only $40 million to operate. 625% profit.

      What are we doing wrong here? Obviously, Pixars gets a huge chuck of the revenues from movie sales and merchandizing. While bigger companies like ILM and its employees need to give up all those rights.

      This is not a battle between different countries. This is a battle to make sure that we get our fair share of the profits and respect (in the credits). In order for that to happen worldwide, we need to start in the US first. If we fail in the US, there’s not much hope for Canada, Inida, China, London, etc.

      • Ashes says:

        Pixar owns the content they are producing and vfx house don’t. The studio owns the content and the houses are just vendors. Very different.

      • A Voice says:

        Yes, Ashes, I pointed that out, but ILM has no negotiating power to get even a little bit of that. Which means, vfx artist will not be able to squeeze water from a rock.

      • VFX Soldier says:

        Check that graph again. That is not operating cost, it’s operating income. I suspect the words are incorrect. I contacted the author to ask for the source but there was no response.

      • Ashes says:

        @A Voice, my point was that comparing a vfx house to Pixar is not a valid comparison. They are different businesses. You can’t hold one up to another when delving into their books.

      • A Voice says:

        Yeah, I’m pretty sure they meant operating cost. Otherwise, these VFX houses shouldn’t be going out of business.

      • A Voice says:

        Believe me Ashes, I understand that.

  22. Tom Roffman says:

    we should be thanking these Asian Nations. They are the only ones stepping up and saving these Bankrupt VFX companies. DD, probably RandH . We keep going on about the great American film industry and yet I see no Americans jumping in to buy these companies with there cash.

    • Scott Squires says:

      The point of the purchase of DD was to get training and technology for China. I assume R&H is looked at in the same way. Whether these companies are actually interested in long term operating the companies here in the US remains to be seen.

      The reason why these companies are struggling is the subsidies (DD in addition had idiots operating it)

      So the biggest scare tactic for those interested in unionizing is that all the work will go to India and China. You see that phrase repeated by people on this forum and elsewhere.

      • chicagoVFX says:

        Most of R&H’s business is in subsidised/low cost areas. A large chunk of DD’s is too – can’t keep excusing their failures forever…

      • Scott Squires says:

        I’m not excusing them of anything. As I mention DD was run by a CEO who tried an end run and lost.

      • chicagoVFX says:

        Agree that you mentioned DD’s dubious management, but you only have it as an additional cause. I contend that the *primary* reason why many of the big LA VFX houses are currently failing is bad management – they established their model in a time of plenty and now they’re hurting and don’t know what to do other than go straight to a Ponzi-style approach where every successive revenue shortfall is offset against the promise of a surplus on the next show over the horizon. Only the surplus is never realised as it’s stripped away by the punishing cost of maintaining the debt that they’ve already accrued.

        I say many of the big LA VFX houses, but not all – for example, we never seem to hear about Hydraulx hurting. Just the old 80s and 90s dinosaurs.

      • Scott Squires says:

        Just be aware that even companies in the UK underbid (buy) the work at times. Companies, whether good or bad management, will be falling given the current situation. Here and elsewhere. Even places with subsidies. Even some newer small shops have closed so it’s not all down to being an old company with using old management methods.

        Hydralux – I have used them on a show but reports from those actually working there have been less than stellar. If a companies survival counts on them causing grief for workers or doing illegal things, then I wouldn’t look to them as a shining example of how it can work. (As I say, I haven’t worked there so all I can do is take comments with a grain of salt)

      • chicagoVFX says:

        *Everybody* buys work from time to time. But it that’s all that you do then a chapter 11 whirlpool is never going to be far away.

      • HDX_insider says:

        Hydraulx has had to open shop in Van and Louisiana, their LA office is pretty dry and empty, it’s been that way for a while now. No one reports about their struggle because no one likes the owners, so most wish them to fail.

  23. scathie says:

    “The reason why these companies are struggling is the subsidies ”

    No single VFX firm struggles because of subsidies.

    • Scott Squires says:

      You don’t think for one moment Montreal offering 50% discount has any impact what so ever on anybody else? That alone is the reason a couple of UK companies are setting up shop in Montreal now. Do you think every shop in LA can drop their prices 50%? You don’t see why the companies are required to set up satellite operations elsewhere and how expensive they are?

      Maybe you’re saying it doesn’t affect just one place. Thats’ correct but it does affect different areas where they are based and some companies have chosen to bite the bullet earlier or later on the satellite companies which can be bad in either case.

      Risk and subsidies
      Oh, what a mess we’re in
      VFX incentives

      • mike says:

        Most subsidies are tax refunds, which means the sales taxes/other taxes on money spend is refunded to the studio.

        These refunds are given against receipts, so the studios actually have to spend the money at the location giving the refund.

        Not too unlike how airports operate “tax free shops”.

        The local people on these subsidy deals lose nothing and gain everything, because otherwise they would not see one cent of the money spent by studios’.

        They only return (via their government) the tax part of the sales.

        And because the studio’s are outside operations that don’t use local government services offering the subsidies, it makes sense that they don’t have to pay the local taxes to upkeep those services.

        The tax refund subsidies are a great deal for any location actually getting additional film/VFX business thanks to them.

        How they affect the VFX business is another matter.

      • VFX Soldier says:

        Incorrect. Subsidies are not based on taxes owed. They go beyond the tax liability of the studio.

        For example in BC, for every $100 paid to a BC VFX worker, the govt pays $60 to the studio.

      • Scott Squires says:

        I think you should do a bit more research and not simply swallow what film commissions may tell you. Check the tax incentive link above. Plenty of research shows they are in fact subsidies and do end up costing the locals big time. Sure a few people working in the film industry should be happy they’re indirectly on he government payroll but for the avg. citizen it costs them money that could have gone into far more useful and important things than to help fund private corporation projects for their profits.

  24. debbie webber says:

    Friends, Friends, Friends!…I cannot find one goddamn blurb about how much R&H got paid. I heard they indeed got paid what they were promised. But I want to hear that amount before I starts jumping on this bandwagon about them being underpaid. Then I can evaluate whether I think they could have mismanaged. Or whether this is failure of them to manage the client.

    HOW MUCH WERE THEY PAID?

    Thanks Guys!
    Debbie Webber

    • Scott Squires says:

      Debbie,

      Do you know the details of the shots? How many? What the complexity level was? Their schedule? How many changes the director requested? Were they delivered the edits on time? Do you know how much R&D was required? What other companies were involved, how much work they did and the type of interaction between the companies? Were all the assets correct or did any need to be rebuilt?

      I don’t see how anyone, even a vfx producer, could look at a final figure and know if it was too much or too little without knowing the rest of the information. If you knew they did 10 simple greenscreen shots then it would be reasonable to get a sense but given the complexity and longevity of real projects it’s almost impossible to make a real evaluation.

      “Or whether this is failure of them to manage the client.”
      Yes, because that’s so easy and such a real option for most visual effects companies. Studios would never pull work randomly and directors always stop the moment you tell them to stop fiddling. Studios are more than happy to pay extra for all extra work.

      It’s fun playing armchair quarterback but if you’re not actually involved you don’t actually know nor can you make a real decision or verdict without being there. This is especially the case if you have never actually run a visual effects company. There are a lot of difficult decisions being made all the time by the actual company management (beyond those working on a project). Even those on the projects have no idea.

      Was R&H failure simply bad management? Every company in the world could operate a bit more efficiently. In the case of visual effects the margins are so thing and the leverage is so little that anything (bad management, client change, etc) could also cause the collapse of a company. If a studio simply pulls out their work that alone would be enough at a lot of companies. The visual effects industry is weak and sick at this point due to external pressures. And the current industry is setup not to reward the most efficient or the best companies, but to reward those who are able to utilize the most subsidies and low cost labor.

      R&H did some of that but they were unable to get full returns on the Vancouver office if the reports are true.

      It used to be a visual effects company was judged on their quality, their interaction with directors, their creativity and how efficiently they did the work. Now it’s dependent on what type of deals they can cut and how they can exploit different locations.

      • jonavark says:

        “It used to be a visual effects company was judged on their quality, their interaction with directors, their creativity and how efficiently they did the work. Now it’s dependent on what type of deals they can cut and how they can exploit different locations.”

        To me that means that equivalent, acceptable quality can be provided by larger number of facilities. The singular speciality of VFX houses has been diminished by shared technology.

      • Scott Squires says:

        I’m not saying that only 1 or a couple of places have that quality but each studio project is evaluated on a number of issues and those decisions priorities are always different. And that the long term of the companies prospects now have very little to do with the work itself and is much more focused purely on numbers, which the company may or may not have any control over.

      • debbie webber says:

        Scott,

        I’m proud to be conversing with you here as you are a world leader in VFX. I get your point. But it’s a valid question. Rather than NOT asking that question. How do you know they were’t siting on their asses on facebook and being mismanaged in cases? Happens all the time. I see it personally.

        I didn’t jump to any “conclusions”. However facts are important in putting together the story. Behind all this, I’m hearing alot of hearsay about some anonymous studio exec who made a comment of shutting a studio down. People put words in my mouth all the time and I’m sick of it. I want to know who made the statement so we can then challenge what this meant. I’m sure the producer was joking.

        Is it possible this movement is slightly distorting facts for its own gain? Valid concern.

      • jonavark says:

        @Scott… I agree with what you are saying and I believe some of it resolves down to the fact that a great deal of the processes that are required for the bulk of vfx work on features is rote and can be done by lower skilled workers. While it does even out the playing field it also makes standing out in the crowd a lot more difficult, this moving the focus to cost.

      • Scott Squires says:

        Debbie,

        I’m not here to defend any company. Nor do I want to imply that subsidies caused every problem known to man. If the visual effects industry were strong then then it wouldn’t matter so much as what a studio executive might have said. And if if you learned that I’m not sure what good it would do.

        If we had a strong industry and a company went out of business then that was simply a combination of management decisions. The end of subsidies would allow each company to make it or not make it simply based on their qualities, including business management.

        But the fact is we are seeing a common theme through all of this. We are seeing common problems in all or at least most vfx companies. We’re seeing a lot of vfx artists being put into bad situations (OT, not being paid, etc) DD and R&H have been large enough events that made people start to wake up. Slow changes tend to develop without being noticed.

        There have been quite a few companies that have closed in the last few years and number of artists not being paid. The DD & R&H events got artists to understand that they’re not immune from this. That there is something going on. So yes, we’re going to use this time when people are awake and focused to see if we can improve the industry. And yes, we used the Oscars to help leverage media attention on our problems.

        All of this is much more than R&H or DD alone. We weren’t protesting that R&H went out of business. We were protesting the fact that there are problems industry wide. We were joining together to say we can do better. That we as an industry must do better when it comes to business and not abusing artists.

        All vfx artists can step forward and lend a hand now or we can repeat this same exact conversation next year when big vfx company ‘Z’ (LA, Vancouver, London, New Zealand, etc) goes out of business.

      • Scott Squires says:

        jonavark- Yes, we have the technology down. So now lets focus on the creative. The camera technology is pretty much locked down, even with the new cameras. But you don’t see studios picking cinematographers randomly out of a hat. Nor do you see that happening for production designers or any other key positions on a film. You can build sets anywhere. Certainly carpentry is a skill that has been locked down. Yet they still value the art department and all they bring to a film.

        We in visual effects now need to shift focus to our creative contributions and make that an emphasis. We are having the director noodle over every pixel of every frame. They don’t do that with any other aspect to that level. Not the lighting, not the production design. Different supes do bring different things to the mix in terms of creative involvement and interaction. And when possible I try to cast key people on an vfx team. Different animators will create different results. Different compositors will create different results. The better ones get there faster and they put an additional spin on it that improves the shot. Sure, at it’s core it may end up being fairly straightforward but if I’m picking a crew I want someone on top of it.

        If companies truly charged what it cost then the choice of decisions a supe makes would have a much more visible result on that bottom line. Sometimes supes make bad decisions and it’s only through the skill of the crews that the problems are fixed. And it’s only because the company absorbs or shifts cost that their impact on the bottom line, for better or worse, are not realized.

        vfx companies used to have art departments heavily involved in getting the most of vfx shots. Those should return so it’s not just a black box that you toss something into. vfx companies should strive to get productions to look at them as they do their own art departments.

        And not everything has to be photo real even though we can now do more of it. There are still some shows and shots that require creative design for all aspects. Most science fiction and fantasy require this. We should be side by side with the art department to make this work.

        And even though many companies have the same tools there are still some companies that tend to be ‘specialists’ in certain areas. If you wanted talking animals then R&H would have been high on that list. If you want water effects then Scanline would be high on that list. It’s not that others can’t do it, it’s just these companies may have more experience or spent more time developing these types of specialities.

        You see this with commercial production companies. Company A is more known for doing car spots. Company B is more known for doing humor spots. You’ll also notice the commercial production companies and the motion graphics companies push their artists and directors to sell the company itself. Even DI the company advertises it’s DI person. They are spot lighting their creative people and using that to distinguish themselves. They don’t hide them in the back and say we are the company and we can do any commercial. Imagine if vfx companies said here’s our roster of vfx supes. Supe A does primarily virtual worlds. Supe B does animal films. etc. If vfx companies don’t respect their own artists why should we expect the rest of the industry to respect us? it all comes down to attitude and presentation.

      • chicagoVFX says:

        Nor do studios pick VFX supervisors out of a hat – there’s a reason why the last five years, four of the VFX Oscar winners have all been either previous winners or prior nominees. But it’s also true to say that whilst the studios don’t randomly choose the Production Designer or DP they generally don’t go down through the lieutenants in those departments picking people purely on the basis of creative track record – the rates dictate who gets the job. There’s no reason why VFX should be any different once the creative lead is in place.

      • debbie webber says:

        Thanks Scott. You’re positions are extremely clear and logical. You are warming me up to the movement slowly…I know you are coming from a good place too.

        I just wish we could get down to more bottom line facts about that number. That might give us something more to quantify. All I’m saying is, wIth that number/info perhaps it will be easier to build a case if the number was OBVIOUSLY low. I do realize it’s tougher to prove otherwise. I’ll let you all know if i find out… I think we need more case studies floating around so we know how much these vfx budgets cost. And I know they have a life of their own 100% unique in every case. But atleast we can start seeing WHERE we are.

        And yes let’s not put up with bullying and such. Let’s start respecting ourselves. It begins with us valuing OURSELVES. By valuing ourselves we get to the table like we are now. I’ve had a number of diff bus disputes over the years due to

        You and a few of the other leaders of this movement have really inspired me to take steps back from my current business in advertising and to revaluate.

        I’m sure we can work on this chain of efficiency on our end too by educating the newcomers and clients…(in advertising as well!). So much is lost in the cracks at the top of mgmt these days as it requires better, proactive mgmt! Everything is so damn fast paced. We can’t blame Ang, the Chinese, or ourselves. Everyone has a right to get the best deal. We need to save ourselves from ourselves ultimately as american’s by doing the best work.

        Scott, all said I consider you a legend and the VFX industry should be proud you are representing them. I know I sound like I’m debating but I’m on your side. Thank You for all your representation of us lower folks on the totem pole in advertising! I say “thank god” i work in advertising some times…(sometimes.)

      • debbie webber says:

        A good point was made above somewhere. There’s this argument that “well, they’ve got VFX locked down so it can be done anywhere. Scott says, well carpentry is locked down and it doesnt hurt them. But I hate to say this Scott as compelling as your position is for certain designers, creatives and supes on the team, not true for the grunts. I know you already know this but saying to the others now…

        Sadly the bandwith is the only thing holding us back. If some greedy bastard could screen share and manage people in India, they will. And they could have a deal set up with a shop that manages them in a small office.

        Imagine, like kids here in america running Papa Johns by themselves. We’ll have VFX grunts that will be everywhere in India. Like little pizza shops. Standing by to put your order in the “oven”. LOL. I know, I know. Enough with my gas lighting (for now😉.

        But all said, it won’t affect supes, creatives and key artists. Just for grunt – track, roto, paint. The solutions we are already seeing. Drive in VFX. Except driving there with your web browser…like this guy in belgium (except cheaper, lol):

        http://fixitinpost.be

    • chicagoVFX says:

      From what I’ve heard – which is admittedly hearsay, but from credible sources in the industry – they went into the show knowing that it was a break-even proposition at best: no profit margin and no wiggle room if they had to absorb anything.

  25. greg says:

    I’d like to know what happened to the industry that the above 1899 quote is referring to.

    Many industries here in Australia have dissolved to China, from Textiles to car parts. Website coding and layout is outsourced in Malaysia for most of the big companies.

    We use BotFx in India to do our Roto/tracking as they do a great job for less than HALF of what we can ourselves AND it happens over night!!

    Change or die basically, how many products do you buy that are Made in England these days. The Yellow Peril is here, it has and will continue to change industries well into the future.

    India is the greatest ‘Threat’ to the VFX industry, the Digital Domain shop front that is slowly opening up will, over the next 18 months, funnel greater than 50% of its work to both India and China, that’s where the future of the Feature Film VFX industry is.

    Mass strikes, protesting, holding your breath won’t doing anything more than line the pockets of Reliance Ent. and Galloping Horse.

    As for subsidies, when Canada and Australia go into recession VFX subsidies will be among the first to be cut.

    Half the battle too is the pipeline for Features is so slow and cumbersome. Having a week on a shot is insane when a good TVC VFX artist on Flame do two or three shots a day of comparable quality.

  26. debbie webber says:

    some of you are missing the point. who in the hell wants to do roto anyway? let them do it overseas for all i care.

    • Anti-VFXenaphobe says:

      Debbie, you are sorely mistaken if you think that only Roto is done in India and China and “overseas” ILM Singapore has plenty of very talented artists that have worked on tons of amazing stuff. Do you consider New Zealand “overseas” or is it western enough to fit in with your descriptions. And as for the grunts, we all start as grunts. We work our way up to become Seniors then Leads then Supervisors. What makes you think this isn’t already happening in China and India. There’s a lot of ignorance on this post. If you think the Asian VFX industry is going anywhere get out of the way dinosaur. Your time is up.

      • greg says:

        Correct, we get Roto/Cleanup/tracking/SceneGeo ALL done in India and all done Exceptionally well.

  27. Frank says:

    I disagree with some comments on here, mainly because I’m in management.

    What people say about China is clearly wrong. China does have good quality people

    One such example of quality Chinese work is Centro Digital Pictures Ltd, who you can look up on imdb. More and more of the quality of ‘Centro’ now exists across mainland China.

    So please dont say China can’t do the quality work that appears in summer films, it can, it has, and it’s getting better at it as every day goes by.

    It should also be know that nearly every tech firm, particularly Nvidia now has large investments in China as well as Microsoft etc, for the numerous scientific papers produced as well as major R&D portions of their companies are located there too.

    Conversely, China does not have labor laws not heath and safety at work. Low paid, non-insured, and vast numbers of “Day workers” are typically used for productions like this. Where people will work all night to for example, to build a set, then again the next night to repaint it, ie to ‘green screen it’ possibly using toxic paint, for what ever is cheapest will be used.

    Further it should be know that residential apartments, sometimes whole floors are ‘rented out’ where the a/c is not used for the staff, but for the servers. Typically these ‘companies’ are dissolved at the end of the productions, so there is no way to prove that illegal software was used.

    By these methodologies many companies have significant cost reductions, compounded with the cost of software in China which is nearly zero as rampant piracy still today prevails, which i may add, also dominates government organizations.

    With near-zero cost software, low cost hardware, and low paid staff, that are, be of do doubt, getting more and more skilled in not only ‘copying’ what comes from the west but now being able to create as well, it’s a recipe to move there.

    Believe it or not the use of technology in China has not been a recent innovation, it has been by that country, a long term strategy, initially started a decades ago when many a Chinese student was sent overseas to learn. These same students, have matured and now are managing these ‘instant’ companies.

    So China can now service many significant phases of production extremely cost effectively.

    Quoting Cameron, “Then, we’re having some Avatar 2 and 3 Chinese co-production discussions.”…surprised?

    In the west it’s quite clear that the business models now being migrated to is, for the moment, three fold:

    the first being the studios owning their own American vfx, eg Disney buying ILM.

    the second is going to wherever the tax breaks are best.

    the third is by using low cost labor who are becoming more skilled.

    The first, is in effect the most secure (for the company) as you can always guarantee they your work will be done first, and will be of the highest quality for tent pole releases. With the added benefit that you can accept independent work, if and when your schedule allows, ie your the boss, your in control.

    the second, is not really a race to the bottom, as so many quote, but really a battle amongst locations, and we can see this with BC and Quebec, London etc trying to offer the best deals. These deals will eventually fall away, as you can’t compete no matter how much you offer, because low labor costs and lax employee laws (eg unionization*) will always trump tax breaks.

    *Warner recently arbitrarily, one could say unconstitutionally, or undemocratically changed the labor laws of New Zealand for their own benefit.

    One can clearly look at economic times of say Flint, Michigan, as much as been spoken about it as a guide. In the 30’s it had 200,000 employees at General Motors, when the documentary Rodger & Me was made it had 50,000 workers, today it has 8,000 workers.

    Yet simultaneously General Motors remains one of the largest multinationals out there. For that to happen you have to ask yourself one question – where did the work go?

    If you cant see the similarity between what happened with GM workers and the VFX workers then your missing ‘Chicago-Milton-Friedman’ economics that these companies now employ.

    The resolution for vfx workers will be the same.

    One only needs to look at John Pilgers documentary
    “The New rulers of The World” – vimeo.com/16366422

    To see exactly where this ends up.

    Similarly take Nike’s business model for example, in Oregon 5,100 people out of a workforce of over 44,000, not including subcontractors, where do you think they all are?

    As yourself too, is not Apple employing the same economic model?

    Please don’t be so naive to think this wont happen here, it is, and eventually you wont be the vfx worker.

    As for the individual, what should you do?

    I’d suggest, be one of those 5,100 people, if that means getting a job with ILM/Pixar/Sony or another ‘secure’ vfx house, that is probably is your best choice to a) get decent wages b) get some kind of security c) get to say in the USA.

    If you don’t, cant, or wont, I’d suggest re-education in another field or at least plan and save for it, but just don’t ask me what one.

    I know this is a “big picture” view and it’s all about business, history and economics, rather than the “Artists” plight at a pixel level.

    But they are connected, I think everyone should think about those connections, about the business of business and the way world economics and business has been headed for a fair while now, and the impact it’s clearly having many today.

    I wish you the best.

    • vfxguy says:

      Very true and very well written.

    • Get Real Soldier says:

      Frank,

      One of the best written posts.

      Don’t want to be a voice of doom, but the industry has had its head buried in the sand for far too long. All is not lost, but this ongoing ‘blame game’ is just prolonging the understanding, acceptance and dealing with the world as it exists, and in so doing, the tasks grow exponentially.

      Truly hope a union or trade organization or whatever helps the current US/California based artists, but I do not believe these will alleviate the “problems” which are so often referenced on VFXSoldier. And, VES an honorary society is most probably not a solution or leader either. As a true honorary society for visual effects this should not matter, so at this moment in time based on many years of VES performance…I truly have no idea what or who VES is or represents.

      I, too, wish all… the best of luck. The artistry, not business model, of visual effects is one to be honored.

      • steve says:

        No kidding, what is VES for? even their awards don’t acknowledge any artist just producers and sups. I don’t think of leadership when I think of VES I think more of coattail riders. I am not talking about the artists that belong to it, I am talking about the organizers of it.
        VES seems mostly useless and completely detached when it comes to the actual industry.

    • McLovin says:

      Frank,

      Well put. I’m glad someone else from management is chiming in. Everything you said was on the money. And the last part, when he suggests people be at the top of the game or leave. Because he’s right.

      You’ll need to be world elite. Olympics level now that you are competing globally, not just locally. Some of you think you are the shit. And some of you ARE the shit! Those of you that really are the best have little to nothing to worry about. But thanks for defending us underlings in advertising, and other related VFX fields, etc! Hopefully you can save us.

      I saw the future flash before me around 2005. I worked in advertising and on a legitmate blockbuster feature for a big studio. Felt like a factory to me. I got paid well, but was not for me. So I stopped taking that kind of work!

      I could see where this was heading. I swear to god, after realizing being a factory features guy wasnt for me, I next voluntarily quit being the “VFX guy” for commercials. I had enough of that sheit. Maybe I could be labelled an arrogant fellow. But I found it offensive to be treated that way.

      Like a concerned parent, I predicted VFX would implode a long time ago. That’s why I got out and advised people to stay away and maybe dabble in features or commercials but to have an exit plan. When I get a call for “Vee-eeffeycts”…no thanks. I’m not puting up with the second fiddle bullcrap.

      It’s going to wear you out with software upgrades like it already is. Let’s not bullshit, yes we are artists but we are also using software. I have been tired about learning what the new features are. I just want to know what creative features in my brain are new goddamnit!

      If we don’t know the software inside and out, we’re fucked because we’ll be too slow to execute. So then the next guy gets the gig.

      I still get calls to this day for VFX and I just say no. Many of you should too. Its not called a strike. It’s called getting old. A reality.

      Mclovin

    • Scott Squires says:

      “China does not have labor laws not heath and safety at work.’ And this is a good thing? Do you think the studios will be as pleased as Apple was with Foxconn?

      “the first being the studios owning their own American vfx, eg Disney buying ILM.”
      Disney did not buy ILM. They bought Lucasfilm. I’m sure if they had the option of buying Lucasfilm without ILM they would have done so. With amount of greed and with bean counters in control ILM may not be sitting quite so pretty as made out here. Many examples of studios shedding vfx companies just for short term gain.

      “…the second, is not really a race to the bottom, as so many quote, but really a battle amongst locations,..”
      Governments trying to outspend each other is a race to the bottom.

      So what happens when the China real estate bubble pops? What happens when the pollution in the rivers there start killing off even more people?

      So if China today offers ever bit of quality in visual effects and filmmaking where is it? Why are the studios dragging their feet and not rushing there? Why are they squabbling over another % subsidy? So why doesn’t ILM or Pixar send all workers over to China or hire an all Chinese crew?

      What happens when more on set virtual production happens and the director, producer and stars have to actually be in the same room as the visual effects team? What happens when the visual effects software gets even better and reduces the labor intensive aspects?

      I love how some people come on here ‘having figured it all out ‘and not even involved in the industry anymore.

    • A Voice says:

      Hi Frank,

      Thanks for your thoughtful input, but I have to say, I can’t completely agree with your post. You’re suggesting we simply give up and move into another industry, or move to China to deal with this problem. That is the answer if we simply give up and don’t fight back. Unionization will force a lot of pressure on management to deal with the problem. It won’t be easy and in the short term, some smaller studios will go out of business because of this pressure. However, in the long term, new studios will pop up and will be forced to have a better business model (trade association).

      While it is true that you can find talent in any part of the world. It is also true that LA currently has the greatest pool of talent. It won’t be easy finding enough talent to handle a complete tentpole movie without bringing some folks from LA. This happens all the time with training and just generally migrating the workforce all over the world. I completely agree that the rest of the world will eventually catch up with LA, but not now. So our chance to act should be sooner rather than later.

    • mike says:

      Bravo Frank! A very clear minded and down to earth commentary on how things stand.

      Should be required reading to anyone working in visual effects field right now.

    • greg says:

      I question your Centro comment about quality.

      • Frank says:

        “Scott”, your reading the comment about China not having health and safety from an alternative perspective, one actually I agree with.

        But the reality is, people want products and just dont care where and under what conditions they are made. I know, and have been to FC enough times to know that, enough times to know that the metal used to make your iphone vibrate is taken from mines in Africa.

        Where warlords rule with the barrel of an AK. Make no mistake, they have no long term vision, they just want dollars now. They do not care about the people and the cancers that are caused there.

        And the same mindset applies nearly every business today, they want product. The same mindset applies to you, you want that phone.

        Desperate times Scott abound, and everyone’s trying to grab what cash they can. The bigger they are, the more cash they need.

        “A voice”, I don’t expect you or anyone else to completely agree, far from it, I wanted to show an alternative perspective, one that’s not on here, one that’s not too often thought about, and one that’s happening, slowly and surely.

        In fact what I want is exactly the opposite, i want you disagree, I want you to see not only through vfx eyes, but business eyes. I want you to look at the past and see that’s the only reason were here today, and where we’re here today will lead us to an inevitable tomorrow.

        I want you to see as I pointed out to “Scott”, everyone, and i mean everyone culpability in this, at different levels.

        I don’t want people to just get out of the business no, actually, I mentioned Flint, Michigan, in the hope that someone might see the other historical perspective.

        That perspective is they fought back, they were probably the architects of what we know (eech) as the 40 hour week, the weekends off, that is what they fought for in the late 20’s and early 30’s.

        Yet I saw a great matt painting company go under a year ago, just as Hugo won, now I see the same as Life of Pi does.

        I wonder where is they union? Why is it taking so long? How long does this discussion go on?

        Because as we speak I also see so many young people entering vfx through schools that are ill equipped to teach them. But they (the schools) are not worried about that, they are getting cash, and lots of it, on loans that cannot be defaulted on. And the meat grinder continues.

        Where’s that union looks out for the industry as a whole? Where it grows by helping young people choose the right schools, and closes down one that are clearly profiteering. Where inclusion, rather just just ‘members interests’ is the order of the day. A way to keep a business and idea, an industry afloat.

        I just know that if something does not happen soon, and the only people that WILL and CAN make that happen like the auto-workers is the vfx workers, that this same topic will be around at the next Oscars, just with less people around.

        So yes, someone, write in notepad a manifesto, send it on facebook, add subtract, register it, get something done.

        Because most of all I really do weep for the young kids entering school being sold to some degree a bill of goods only to find out when they have the debt, and it’s all too late, there is nothing there for them.

        But I wont end this on a sad note.

        I’ll end it on one that says, you, all of you, each and every one of you, and no-one but you, can change that future.

        My Dad was in WW2 and always quoted Winston Churchill “Give us the tools and we’ll finish the job”, thing is you already have them.

        Look at what “Anonymous” do as a collective with a singular purpose, now I’m not suggesting a WB etc taketown,

        I’m suggesting if the people of Flint Michigan got it together without these tools, how much easier is should be for you.

        I wont wish you the best, rather this time I’ll let you decide that if you want it, today, like the pas you have to storm the Bastille, to have it happen. (see things haven’t changed)

        On that note, I honestly and truly hope you do organize and create an inclusive future – for everyone, regardless of race, religion, or country.

        And I hope the irony of that is not lost, because if the above does happen: subsidies, countries, politicians, studios, cant ever win again against a system that contains you ALL.

      • Scott Squires says:

        In regard to the union –
        People have to be willing to stand up and join the union first.
        They let fear of everything stop themselves from doing so. That’s the point of vfxsoldier posting here. The fear of outsourcing has caused workers to turn to clay or to hide from the facts. What they don’t get is what it will gain them.

        In terms of unions controlling the schools- Look at the number of schools and for profit schools teaching filmmaking. Look at the cottage industry of screenwriting books, dvd, lectures, etc. There are art schools, fashion schools, etc. Many run by these same for profit companies (which in turn is funded by Goldman Sachs. Wonder why?)

        Those and other areas are flooded with people looking to make it big. Look at the number of those students which I would assume dwarf vfx schools. Yet that hasn’t caused a melt down of the film studios nor has it displaced film workers. Why? Because they have unions. And the studios are not so desperate that they try to hire people for minimum wage. They do value people who know what they are doing and that are experienced. Only the vfx companies are that desperate and that naive.

        I do think students should be warned about what they’re getting into. I’ve tried to make that clear and I think we should be looking for ways to force the schools to give students the truth before they sign up. Now that in itself will not discourage everyone. There will be passionate people who actually want to
        do this type of work. There are those who will make it.

        So I’m not sure how the unions are to control these schools or the students who choose to go into them. The for profit schools have a powerful ($) lobby and were able to successfully thwart any government control by filling politicians pockets with money.

    • jonavark says:

      Thanks Frank. That’s what I was trying to say.. your message is much clearer and more eloquent than mine. But that’s the way it REALLY is.

  28. VFX_Reckoning says:

    Whoo-hoo, I taking bets here! Who wants to bet that if JSC Communications wins the bid for R&H, they’re going to take all of the current El Segundo jobs overseas, maybe even move the El Segundo office to South Korea. Any takers?

    • VFX Soldier says:

      I’d like to bet you. When do you believe the la office will be gone? How much would you like to bet?

      • VFX_Reckoning says:

        You’re on! (At the rate things are going, unless there are major changes to the industry within that time)…Let’s say $50, within a year of sale.

      • VFX Soldier says:

        You boldly claim that within a year of the sale the LA facility will be all gone and all the rhythm work will go to asia within a year of the sale?

        And you price it at a measly $50? Grow some balls. Lets do $1000.

      • VFX_Reckoning says:

        Ha! Well being that I don’t have a stable work environment, I need my money.

      • VFX Soldier says:

        And I’m gonna give you $1000 cash if your bold prediction comes true? What’s the matter? I thought its all going to Asia? Why the lack of confidence all of a sudden?

      • jonavark says:

        @Reckoning.
        Take the bet. It’s going to happen. You can profit from someone else’s delusion.

      • VFX Soldier says:

        Jonavark: if im so delusional why not you take the bet?

      • jonavark says:

        Well soldier.. it is a false bet. You would have to let me know who you are and I don’t think that’s gonna happen. I don’t make bets with anonymous people.

        The LA Office might be here but the work won’t.

      • VFX_Boom says:

        A company will not pay $19million just for some proprietary software, and a pipeline. The leadership and supervisory roles within that pipeline are where the value is, the experienced human factor if you will. No chance all of the folks at the LA office agree to relocate to South Korea.

        It’d be cheaper and easier to just buy the software and pipeline from the ground up. JS Communications knows this. They also need an LA office to keep it’s foot in the Hollywood door to remain a player, IF they have the winning bid.

        Please stop with the pissing contest.

      • jonavark says:

        They won’t have to relocate. Korea is full of brilliant people who can surely understand it. So I am betting that it will disappear. They don’t need everyone anyway.. just a few key people and they’re off. If that.

  29. McLovin says:

    Google analytics tells me someone in South Korea has been stalking my small but known ad industry company site. For consecutive days not just a fluke thing.

    Hmmmmmm. What the hell is going on? Invasion?😉

    Mclovin

  30. McLovin says:

    Compare these two sites:

    http://fixitinpost.be
    http://www.dominos.com

    pretty soon these too websites concepts of drive through VFX will become even less funny. think about it. roto, track, paint is like the pizza of our business. Cloning a shirt will not happen in america. It will happen whereever the best deal is when overnight suffices. Imagine that. Overnight. While you (studio exec) sleep!

    Mclovin

  31. McLovin Media says:

    Goddamnit nerds what are you doing? Why are you still here? You better get back to those tutorials like yesterday! Or you are finished! LOL. Sadly I’m saying this for all our own good.

  32. A. Yuma says:

    As someone who worked for an Asian company I must say I have doubts as to whether they can pull off something like Life of Pi. The mentality is very different culturally and the little errors add up. They don’t “feel” it. They don’t work in an egalitarian manner as we do meaning it’s top down and shut up. The best quality work will continue to be done with a California anchor of a partial or full team.

    • McLovin Media says:

      Who knows. You can never base solely on the past. There is always the birth/death model. All things/people must come to pass. It’s just a question of when.

      The only thing WE DO KNOW is that it will continue to be a tough fight for our competitors and ourselves. Because the winning side can always be upset as early as tommorows’ news.

      I’m tired of playing devils advocate. I’m glad you guys are wearing me down to quit.😉

      I’m glad Scott talks about getting back to the “creative”. I agree and appreciate that he keeps that high on the list.
      Movies are just so boring these days to me. I like the art direction and maybe a sequence or two but there is no attempt to get the secondary actors to perform very well. It always feels like I’m watching a star show, with decent actors at the helm, but then all the supporting roles just suck. Too much emphasis on casting 1 over paid star but not keeping it real with quality ensembles who can act just as good or better?

      I just saw something where soderberg is quiting directing now??
      Apparenly Tarantino, Shadyac to other disgruntled directors have simply just had it with the bullshit too.

      McLovin

    • Blacklight says:

      American auto makers said very similar things about the earliest attempts at auto manufacturing by the Japanese

      • A. Yuma says:

        I think you improved my point. If it’s mechanical and repetitive yes it can be learned and copied. Something more intuitive and culturally based is next to impossible to copy except in a superficial manner. I am talking about “art” in its various guises. It goes both ways. US companies can’t necessarily appeal to audiences in Asia when it’s a culturally specific product.

      • John says:

        mechanical works can be learned quickly, the artsy stuff takes time to cultivate.

  33. A Voice says:

    “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

    The people, not corporation or politicians, define our lives.

    OK, sign your cards and get your co-workers to do it too! If not, give them dirty looks until they do! The quick and convenient online card is a good starting point.

    http://animationguild.org/online-repcard/

  34. McLovin Media says:

    I agree it’s not about button pushing. But let’s be REAL here. I’m proudly about to piss people off. But I wish they would hear me out completely before judging me.

    All this crap has been said about how much VFX is an art. It’s somewhat of an art and craft. But it’s also a science. Using scripting, dynamics, etc. Painting a sky texture or lion texture is not that hard. However solving the problems to get it to stick there on a technical level…are very difficult. I know first hand.

    In a lab scenario scientists are paid and respected. VFX should be no diff. They should be treated like scientists (with art bgs) where they are given considerable time to find solutions to problems.

    I think VFX deserves more respect as the scientists or wizards of the whole thing rather than grouped into being picasso. Anyone else get my point?

    • Get Real Soldier says:

      Twenty tears ago if ILM were looking for people they said,
      “If we look at 200 portfolios, we will pick the two best artists because you can teach an artist the technology, but you cannot teach a technologist to be an artist”. Absolutely true…20 years ago. The new kids on the block are a completely different breed. What they can do with computers and high speed, low cost technology today is exponentially beyond imagination…20 years ago.

      I agree that art plays a major component in creating visual effects, but today the pallet of the artist is now a computer terminal advancing visual effects at the speed of light.

      Artistic understanding is still the key, but it is not the only driver anymore.

      • Well.. it’s still “the key” though, right? Look, I’m not so sure things have changed so much in twenty years.

        To the extent that technology ever makes certain things easier/more automated, more accessible etc… it also cheapens the end product.

        Leading edge VFX will ALWAYS require that extra level of creative and technical expertise, that goes beyond simply operating software.

      • Get Real Soldier says:

        With all due respect…much is the same in the visual effects industry as it was 20 years ago especially regarding its business models. But, 20 years ago folks paid 250K plus for a single work station with annual software upgrades between 50K -100K. The technology often was obsolete long before the financing had been fulfilled and/or the equipment could be fully amortized. The few technology providers like SGI owned the market.

        Artistry will always be the cornerstone of visual effects, but just like the advances in your personal cell phone, blackberry or whatever…what can be done by today’s average computer artist/gameboy/whatever is light years ahead of what it once was…and, will continue to grow at a very fast pace. Do you actually believe many of the young artists in visual effects today have gone through the extensive art school training of the past…don’t think so?

        And, I am in no way discounting the value of the artistry. I am just laying out the current landscape as it seems to be.

      • I would actually argue that as technology has improved, the reduced need for low-level technical know-how means the artistry is a ‘more’ decisive factor in distinguishing the best from the worst work. I would argue that this has been the trend from the start.

        It used to be that one needed a degree in IT to create art on a computer..

        John Lasseter famously recalled the the 1983 (I think) premier of his early Pixar short, Wally B. When the primarily tech-savvy audience were blown away by the organic, lifelike quality of the animation, the first thing they asked was what special software was used to create the effect.

        In actual fact, he’d just applied the Disney seven rules of animation….known for over fifty years.

        When I started out in ’97 there were still relatively few in the field with any sort of a pure-art background, myself included. The best results will always achieved when there’s a proper mix of technical and artistic competence, be it within the company or the person.

        So to re-iterate, I think the trend is for the tools to be “less” of a driver if anything.

    • Blacklight says:

      I’ve actually been doing scientific visualization and working with scientists since leaving the industry five years ago. These people have devoted their entire lives to studying extremely difficult subjects. To do scientific research these days, you not only have to be a scientist, but also a mathematician and a programmer. And you need to have a PhD.

      Most VFX artists I know use software to do one hyperspecialized thing, and know little to nothing about math, coding, physics, or the intricacies going on under the hood. I think it’s extremely presumptuous for a VFX artist to assume parity with a scientist.

  35. Surely it would be more accurate to say that the degree of artistry versus technical problem-solving varies from discipline to discipline within the field. When I was a generalist, there was more of a requirement for technical knowledge than was the case when I switched to animation, for example..

  36. McLovin Media says:

    Many of the artists that work on films have a bg in advertising, etc. Question is… what’s next for the ad/corp industries that use VFX?

    • greg says:

      Interesting point and I might be digressing a little here, yes a lot of artists in film started in advertising, however they have lost there sense of urgency, for example by taking a week for one shot rather than a couple of hours.

      What I’m grappling with is what would be the best TVC based Tech. Modo/Nuke or Max/Maya/Flame/Smoke that may be defining. Some days I think a Nuke combo will win but the speed and flexibility of Flame/Smoke with the timeline seems stronger with its Just In Time capabilities.

      What will be the VFX TVC department of the future…. I see Roto/Cleanup/Tracking/setGeo/Modelling being done offshore as they do a great job.

      The beauty of TVC is it’s short turn around so the pipeline shits all over films, in reality Film needs to adapt a TVC pipeline pretty quickly to survive.

      TVC is the future, well for the medium term at least…..

      • Burlington Bertie says:

        TVC – acronym with no definition – what have you in mind?
        Are you referring to the Hungarian home computer from Videotron circa 1986?!

      • ian wilmoth says:

        hee hee. TVC = Tee Veee Commercial, Bertie.

        As far as pipeline, the TVC commercial pipeline is completely nonexistent as it would be defined in the film world. There is simply no need for it. Most TVCs have at most lets say 10 CG shots if its really crazy. And the whole thing will have no more than 20 seconds CG in a 30 sec spot, with the corporate logos and crap that take time.

        Revisions, while still stupid, can never approach the idiocy of a Hollywood film’s retarded development, as budgets are much smaller, less time, and nobody really cares aout TVCs at the end of the day. A pipeline is only really a big deal when you need to crank out and revise 600 shots with continuity…

        Further, movies are often being done in IMAX 3d now, while most TVCs are at most full HD and not stereo. Even aside from the work itself being more design oriented and easier to render. So the amount of render power required is a tiny fraction compared to a film, and the limited number of shots on a job reduces the need for really rigorous organization like in a feature. Its perfectly easy for the director to keep tabs on it all without needing updated sheets of dailies etc.

        Basically its a whole different beast, and trying to do an effects movie the way you would do a TVC would lead to a complete meltdown about halfway through, in terms of schedule if nothing else. Terrible idea.

    • andrei.gheorghiu says:

      …and internship:
      “Do you see yourself corralling zombies? Battling aliens? Destroying cities? Taking care of giant lizards? Here at MPC you could do all of that and more. How? By applying for our Internship scheme First Step, the MPC paid 8 week internship over the summer period of 2013.”
      http://www.moving-picture.com/index.php?Itemid=967&option=com_content&view=article&contentview=single&id=1522

    • mclovin media says:

      ive had a drink and now i’m back. LOL. Well andrei that’s a really good one. It’s amazing no one has chimed in about it. The question is: will they succeed? I’m not so sure! I think it will have an impact. But I envision them growing tired of the model. There will be hidden costs and headaches. They will dump that model… it’s like crowdsourcing. If it was that great companies would simply crowdsource 100% of the time. But they realize there’s quality and then there’s fucking mcdonalds.

  37. ian wilmoth says:

    The frightening thing is the guy in 1899 had it absolutely correct, and even strong unionziation does absolutely nothing to stop it. In fact, if there were strong VFX unions the push into outsourcing would have happened long ago.

    The very few cases where unions really work are jobs that require a human being to physically show up and do the work, like a film crew and actors, or plumbers, or police officers, construction workers etc. It would work for doctors too but they seem to be doing fine.

    I think its a similar situation at companies like Apple or Nike, the in house jobs are all in the fields of design or marketing or business, stuff where the executives want these certain resources available at fingertip reach, but anything that doesn’t directly concern them or support that part of the operation, can and is, outsourced to someplace with cheap labor. Such as manufacturing. And anything that can be made into part time or temp work in those cases, will be.

    To the rulers of the universe, creating animation is basically akin to moderately skilled assembly line work. The executive decisions are already made, it just has to be implemented They will never care to keep that part of the work in house It’s like corporate executives and those they work in lockstep with in government get a kick out of fucking people.

    Really, we should be asking all these chinese workers to unionize🙂

    The unions didn’t really help 2d animation industry remain in America either, not to mention manufacturing. It’s an idea that’s hard to get excited about when it has a track record of failure.

    BTW I am a freelance VFX artist and I have participated in many of the situations that have been discussed here, such as globalization, and ridiculous hours🙂

    A lot of this is probably repeats of what other people have said, and it’s some comfort to know that my own asessment of things is shared by some articulate writers, and presumably talented VFX artist🙂

  38. ian wilmoth says:

    Another note, due to the insane short turnaround times on the projects, television commercials, (TVCs) which almost all use some CGI, if only for a logo or product shot, do almost all the CG production in house, but crews are under 20 people and its almost all freelance due in part to dodge having to obey labor laws that apply to full time, insurance etc.

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