Good, Fast, Or Cheap?

Good, fast, or cheap? You can only choose two in VFX:

A North Korean terrorist may be responsible for taking the president hostage, but it’s Bulgarian-made CGI that does the most damage in Antoine Fuqua’s intense, ugly, White-House-under-siege actioner “Olympus Has Fallen.” Cut past the pic’s superficial patriotism, and the message is ironically clear: Never outsource your visual effects when a domestic shop will do.

David S. Cohen also chimes in:

But this state is unsustainable, and the vfx execs at the majors know it. They also know that it’s not to their advantage for the vfx industry to implode, because then the last men standing might get real market power. And if Peter Debruge’s review of “Olympus Has Fallen” is any indication, they majors are about to learn that once you’ve shown auds what good vfx look like, cut-rate vfx are as laughable as bad acting.

I think the first article unfairly calls out Bulgarians. There are many talented Bulgarians working in VFX. The film was also worked on in Louisiana, Toronto, and China.

My point is this: If you want VFX to look good and to be fast, you aren’t going to get it cheap.

Soldier On.

151 Responses to Good, Fast, Or Cheap?

  1. Bill Gilman says:

    I like this old joke: The VFX guy is on set explaining to the producer the old saying Fast, Good and Cheap, you can only pick two. The producer says, “I’ll take cheap twice.”

    Ba doonk chaaa

  2. Rob says:

    You forgot Denmark:
    “We are handling 134 shots involving a dramatic car crash – 24 shots made it to the trailer”

    • Rob says:

      It’s very funny too because I only read that ~12 hours ago, when I thought about applying there. And also funnily enough, it wasn’t so much the quality of the effects (even though I did find them cringe-worthy and made me wonder) that deterred me but more so the awful, awful premises of the movies (there is also Pacific Rim). And those (the concept, script, what have you) were made right in the good ol’ USA. Which I would find more embarrassing (and thus, it deterred me more) because that’s not the surface but the essence.

      • deanareeno says:

        I’ve never worked nor do I know anybody at Ghost VFX (Denmark), but their reel shows that they can do/have done excellent work:

        …which just reinforces Solider’s point: give them a proper schedule and budget, and you’ll see it (though I don’t know that anyone is calling out their work in the trailer/film specifically).

        WorldWIde FX seems to be the vendor that covers the Bulgaria/ Louisiana spread. Their featured reel on their website (for the Expendables 2) is less impressive — but again I’m chalking that up to time/budget constraints.

        Who is the Chinese company? I couldn’t find anything in a quick search.

      • Rob says:

        Which is exactly why the quality of the effects in “Olympus Has Fallen” was not the major issue for me. Instead, the fact that they seem to constantly work on stupid movies that I would feel ashamed to contribute to. It’s fine to do a stupid movie now and then to keep your head above the water. But at least here or there, I want to be able to work on some projects that demonstrate artistic integrity and offer food for thought and possibly even social criticism.

  3. deanareeno says:

    “ANTOINE FUQUA: Oh, yeah! Like I talked about [at the preview], this is the most accelerated schedule I’ve ever had in my life. Dealing with visual effects and stuff, literally I would have to approve almost 150 shots a day, which means I’d sit there after editing all day, doing everything else, sit there, go through the whole thing, every shot, make notes, send it back, and I’m sitting there looking at the sand running out every day. I was like, “Oh my God, I don’t know how I’m going to do this!” Literally, the last day I had to give them this film when they ripped it out of my hands, I had got 40 shots in that were missing. I wasn’t sure we were going to make it. So I’m sitting there thinking, ‘How do I re-cut this entire thing if they don’t come in or if they suck?'”

    Fast. Cheap. Not good.

    • McLovin Pizza says:

      Exactly. Fuqua is a brotha of course, so they used him like a slave on a plantation.

      What VFX Artists forget is that the directors are in hell right now.

      That’s why so many of them are quitting the industry and jumping off bridges, etc. Hollywood is literally killing directors too: Tony Scott (RIP), Soderberg, Lucas, Tarantino, Shadyac.

      All have had enough.

      • P-Fi says:

        Easy McLovin Pizza, not appropriate at all!

      • McLovin Pizza says:

        What i dew? j/k
        Fair enough. My sense of humor isn’t always appreciated. Appologies. I suck as a comedian.

        But everything else I said was appropriate regarding those directors who are hurting.

      • illuminated1. says:

        perhaps another sporting power outage is in order?

      • scathie says:

        “Exactly. Fuqua is a brotha of course, so they used him like a slave on a plantation.”

        The comments on this blog just keep getting more right-wing and/or racist every week.

        That is the most disgusting thing I’ve read in a while.

      • McLovin Pizza says:

        I apologize. I sometimes like to kid around late at night.
        I’m neither right-wing, nor racist. I’m actually a good guy. I was just being silly. Not sure what go into me to think it was funny.

        I’ll admit it was bad taste. I wish I could delete it. Really sorry guys!

      • tazzman says:

        Dont worry about it. We’ve all said things we wish we could take back.

      • tazzman says:

        One of which is: ok so the check wont clear this week, but next week it will? Ok. Yeah, I’ll be here at 9am sharp.

  4. weedimageoftheday says:

    Let’s boycott the movie. Money speaks. Will the studios listen and stop releasing such crap?

    • TimeToAct says:

      Jack the Giant Killer is bombing.. Are the studios paying attention to their bad choices or just putting the blame everywhere else?

      • weedimageoftheday says:

        We have no control over how the studios interpret why a movie turns out to be bomb. They may not readily understand, nor want to see the results right away. And there are so many factors that contribute to success or failure at the box office. But we can control how we vote with our ticket buying power, so I say, we stay the course and pay to see quality films with good stories and production value. The dumbing down of our population is so prevalent that we need to do what we can to stand up for intelligent films, intelligently well done.

      • TimeToAct says:

        And if 20,000 VFX artist boycott a film the studios won’t notice.
        They only lose $300,000 – that’s nothing when it come to boxoffice earnings. 300,000x$15 ticket(average price)

        But if 20,000 VFX artist all strike then a film won’t get finished, and then the studios will notice.

        I’m sorry but peaceful talks and talking in circle debates on the Internet doesn’t do shit.

        Look at all the other branches of the film industry, they get treated unfairly, they get mad, they strike, they get get paid.

      • Mclovin Pizza says:

        exactly. boycotting a movie is retarded. it’s a roach sized hit for the studios. And furthermore if anything, the artists would be shooting themselves in the foot. Even if they did succeed, it would drive the budgets down further. duh

  5. I’ve worked for that miserable company. Many of the artists are very good and very hard workers. It’s the management that is so very, very bad. The worst I’ve ever experienced. I have stories!

  6. vfxscrub says:

    The United States does not negotiate with VFX houses.

  7. recovering vfx td says:

    Big vfx studios need to start delivering bad work if the client is being shit. The idea of delivering vfx better then what the client wants is killing the industry.

    • vfx dude says:

      Not bad work just deliver what they paid for. Manage expectations and manage your artist expectations. Remember this is commercial art. It should not be personalized.It’s pervasive self esteem issues that lead people to over deliver. They want to be recognized for there work to fulfill something they are missing.

  8. P-Fi says:

    There are some gems in here:

    “the lo-fi effects of an earlier era look realistic by comparison”

    “Fuqua’s widescreen approach — which offers ample room for all that vidgame-quality CG”

    “Sadly, those crude Bulgarian-rendered effects aren’t much more convincing than the recent White-House-in-the-crosshairs propaganda videos pouring out of North Korea”

    • Andreas Jablonka says:

      lets wait till emmerichs white house down comes out. his vfx team (uncharted territory) normally creates good stuff. other houses like method studios are working on it as well. its not apples to apples but might shine a light on this issue.

      • vfxmafia says:

        I have faith Volker Engel and Marc Weigert over at Uncharted Territory will smoke the effects in “Olympus has fallen”……havent seen this kind of “rip off mirror movie” crap by the studios since all those volcano movies.

      • tazzman says:

        or the Mars movies a few years after the Volcano ones.

      • BrandonD says:

        Or the asteroid/comet movies. BTW, working with Mark Weigert and Volker Engel is awesome – great team!

  9. Gypsy_Artist says:

    As some of the posters have intimated – the Bulgarian and Lousiana team at WWFX are a special case. Millenium and Avi Lerner are famous for getting investors in their movies to pay cash and then putting in “in-kind” goods and services for the vast majority of their own shares. They have used political influence to take over the former Bulgarian State Film Studio, installed only American and Israeli managers that are part of the Millenium family and artificially keep wages low and workinh conditions abhorrent for there Bulgarian crew members, They underpay their crews, ignore safety and health issues completely (they have killed a number of people in on-set acccidents most recently on Expendables 2) and then claim full value for these services as there share of investment in the movie. When it comes to VFX not only does the management abuse the team in Bulgaria, but they manipulate the tax credits in their Louisiana facility so that the state pays a credit on a huge portion of work. Shreveport paid for the construction of a studio and VFX facility for NU IMAGE / MILLENIUM that also houses there US branch of WWFX. I has an artist on an animation team last year who worked for the facility in Shreveport who described how the entire facility is monitored and managed remotely via Bulgaria and most of the work is done by low paid artists overseas and then input and output in Louisiana to take the tax credit on the claimed value of the shots. Its a shame that, despite on-set deaths and dozens, if not hundreds of crazy stories about Millenium and the Lerners, trade reporters like David Cohen at Variety or Richard Verrier have not done any investigation or taken any interest in telling this story. The truth is that money is a deodorant in Los Angeles and no one in the media will challenge that, no matter how bad the abuse or how compelling the story,

    But there is something that can be done here that helps all of us and helps our brothers and sisters on the production side. Film Critics and reviewers need to be reminded to comment on and hold filmmakers responsible for the quality of their work, Variety’s review was on of the only one that commented on any craft issues in the movie. All you artists out there can email the media and remind them that craft is critical to an audience enjoyment of a movie and they need to call out and honor craft and crew when film is excellent and hold individuals responsible when work sucks. Irts no secret in Hollywood what it is like to work for companies like Millennium and some directors and craftspeople manage to fight there way, even within the constraints, to make a reasonable looking movie. WWFX is managed only to make a huge profit for Millenium but directors and outside VFX supervisors have fought within that system and made okay movies. Ghost FX in Denmark is a fine second-tier animation house that has been a Dneg subcontractor for many years and done good work for them, Antoine Fucqua allowed crap to be put up on screen, Evan Jacobs is a freelance VFX Supervisor and he approved crap to be put up on screen. The reviews should have called both of them out as responsible. David Cohen is right about bad work coming back to bite the studios in the ass, and the more we push the media to do their job and let audiences know the quality of the film they are seeing and review all the crafts involved, music, sound. editing. cinematography and VFX, not just the performance of a celebrity actor or the relative success of the marketed idea, the faster we will get the studios to acknowledge the need for talented below the line artists and vendors.

    • Andreas Jablonka says:

      thank you for the insight story!

    • jonavark says:

      excellent. Don’t forget Scott Coulter.. the mastermind. D’oh!

    • Mclovin Pizza says:

      Gyp: You blame Fucyua but not all directors have the same leash.

      Some are more empowered, others are kept on a leash. Even with DGA alot of Directors don’t even know their rights. This happens moreso in television from what I understand. Producers will try to hijack the vo sessions, etc. Directors aren’t aware they are within their “rights” to attend those sessions. Producers will “block” them. Depends on the producer too right? Not just the director?

      I’d like to hear someone elaborate more on this variable leash concept in features vs tv — between directors and producers.

  10. vfxguy says:

    Anyone know what the vfx budget was?

  11. anonymous says:

    It really makes me wonder if the studios are looking for canned products now, we are delivering fresh goods with proprietary ingredients but maybe they just want a can of tomato soup, made with off the shelf commercial tools.

  12. Get Real says:

    Here’s an alternative viewpoint on the VFX from Roger Ebert:

    “The special effects and attention to detail in “Olympus Has Fallen” are superb. It truly looks like the destruction depicted onscreen has actually occurred. Considering that most of this mayhem was created by CGI and filmed on extensive special sets constructed in Louisiana, the impact is even more impressive.”

    • vfxmafia says:

      right back at ya “get real”

      “I’m literally approving almost 200 visual effects a day…..”

      -Antoine Fuqua

      • Andreas jablonka says:

        I think it said 150 a day but let’s go with 200: how many effects shots does the film have? Lets say 800 on the high end. That’s 200×4 days =800 shots. Seems like is Friday off?
        Kidding aside I understand a compressed schedule but this sounds like you twiddled with each shot till the 11th hour and NOW you are stuck and need to go on approval mode. Something does not lineup.

      • McLovin Pizza says:

        “I’m literally approving almost 200 visual effects a day…..”

        -Antoine Fuqua

        That is a serious quote and should be all over these threads and twitter. That’s alarming.

      • McLovin Pizza says:

        Andreas you no doubt have my respect, I can see you come with a long list of accolades.

        But let’s get real kind sir, if directors left it up to VFX artists to decide when a shot is done… I think the films would such even more. Just my 2cents. Director’s are just trying to raise the quality of the film. It’s a subjective process. Hence why the process is so prone to failure. Whose to say who is right or wrong when a director wants to elevate something.

        I’m your friend here Andreas and this isn’t directed toward you. But I see alot of finger pointing on both sides. Directors pointing fingers. Producers. Artists.

        One big finger pointing extravaganza!

      • Andreas Jablonka says:

        Not sure I got your Point Mclovin Pizza: If Artist would decide on films they would suck more? I totaly agree that the directors have the vision or at least should have one. Im simply pointing out that they NEED to make decisions. Producers should tell a director when he has reached his dartboard approach of finding the color palette for the sequence or the look of a creature.

        I commented on the amount of shots Mister Fuquo had to final. Why does he have to final that many suddenly? because he did not final them before. Were they ready? Maybe not, but even with short schedules i dont see going from 0-100 on a shot in 4 days. He had a chance to look at them for a while. And he did not final them, he had notes, the progress was not there, whatever it was it led to a last week of crazy finals because they time ran out.

      • vfxmafia says:

        the full quote reads as…

        “I’m literally approving almost 200 visual effects a day, and this movie has to be out March 22, so I’ve never worked on a movie in this short of time. However, it puts a certain pressure on you to deliver.”

        article can be found here….

        The reason why the movie has to be done by “March 22” is to beat Roland Emmerich’s “White House Down” to the theaters…

        Olympus Has Fallen is a “Shadow film” ..a cheap knock off seaqual…made be shitty chicken hawk production companies like Millenium films….who are getting sued for on set death on Expendables 2.

        These shadow films come out 2 months before the big studio film and beat them to the punch…..essentially stealing the idea and opening box office draw….literally cutting the legs out of the original movie.

        kind of like…..
        Skyline vs Battle Los Angeles or Dantes Peak Vs. Volcano….or Mission to Mars vs. Red planet..or Truman show Vs. Ed TV or Deep Impact vs. Armagedden

        Its the worst and most gutless kind of film making…taking someones idea and doing a cheap toilet paper version of it…..Im dissapointed with Antoine Fuqua…..he should be a better director than that…

        Not surprised Millenium films is cutting corners on the VFX…..

      • Andreas Jablonka says:

        I stand corrected about the quote 200 it is.

        I dont agree with the shadow theory. Yes it SEEMS like this is the plan, but keep in mind movies are in the making from conception to finish product for 3-4 years. nowadays maybe more 2-3 i admit that. Finding Nemo/Sharktale? Both fish films? I dont think they wanted to copy one another. It just happened! Did olympus want to be red headed step child against white house down? i bought it its still expensive to make these.

      • Copy Cats says:

        Let’s see, who copied who…

        Millennium bought the spec script for Olympus in March 12, 2012.

        Sony bought White House Down on March 29, 2012

      • McLovin Pizza says:

        To: Andreas. Yeah man I see your point as well. I was trying to say in a nice way (in one of my comments out there), that there’s a deeper story.

        And sure, I thought the same thing. 200vfx/day?

        I think he meant that he was “reviewed/steered/gave on going notes”… not approved 200 per day..

        And that maybe he’s counting multiple vfx in a given shot. I dunno.

      • vfxmafia says:

        To Copy Cats:

        Compare the movies that Millennium films makes and then compare them to Roland Emmerich’s credits……..

        compare World Wide FX to Uncharted Territory….

        one is chicken hawk bottom feeding operation and the other is has made some of the highest grossing films of all time.

      • Dank says:

        Not really good films… But definitely copycats.

      • vfxmafia says:

        To Dank…

        That link is hillarious…why would you copy Jack the giant slayer flop?

      • Dank says:

        Like you said they try to get their version out before the others guys movie.

      • BlameBulgaria4ur problems says:

        @VFXMafia, I guess Millenium isn’t the only company that’s had tragic accidents while shooting a film.

      • vfxmafia says:

        To Blame Bulgaria for your problems.

        Hey cheif…i dont blame bulgaria for my problems.

        At least 5-6 grips get killed a year in the US from scissor lifts that fall over…or they crash their car from falling asleep at the wheel from working an 18 hour day…or a light explodes….

        this is why the US has film unions……

        corporations are getting so big that they are operating on a global scale with out laws and regulations…..

        I dont hate VFX artists from around the world. Fact is I worked on shitty productions when i was first starting out too. Yeah it sucks that Olympus has fallen beaten Roland Emmerich to the punch.

        Fact is I am a bit biased. I worked for Roland on “2012” and it was great expirience. Roland lost on this film…but hey….he just announced that he is doing Independance day 2 and 3. I hope he brings some of his shots to LA…. anyone who has work right now should be thankful for it….

        even the hacks in Bulgaria….(just kidding)……

        to quote the rat in “ratatouille”….

        “Not everyone can be an artist…..but an artist can come from anywhere.”

        I truly wish that VFX aritst from around the world can make a living at what they love and be able to take care of themselves and their familys…..

    • Joe says:

      That viewpoint was written by Phil Zwecker, not Roger Ebert. The effects in “Olympus” are garbage– they’re all like when the plane crashed at the end “Air Force One”. Remember how that looked?

  13. McLovin Pizza says:

    Maybe the Directors should be weighing in more?

    Tony Scott (RIP), Soderberg, Lucas, Tarantino, Shadyac. Directors that quit. Read about it. Directors are dropping like flies. I think it’s important that we not villify them for being higher paid…People love to “hate” in this town, no doubt about that.

    I think it’s important that we recognize the struggles directors must endure with impossible schedules, douchebag producers getting in the way, and corporate suits pissing all over the story, character and nuances. Becuase they can.

    Soderberg quit this past january accusing studios of “farting in the kitchen”. Actual quote. Google it.

    I hear alot of artists voice their frustration with directors but unfortunately I don’t think they are always to blame. They need to feed their children too and are in a compromised position. Lots of objectives beyond just “Art”.

    Directing is not a button push thing either. Directors get assinine notes and revisions too.

    It’s time we realize that we are screwed on a bigger scale. That being the model is not working at all for VFX films. No amount of blueprinting will save it IMHO.

    It’s just like live action. When you have to depend on so many others to realize the vision, things fall through outside of their control that requires “fixing it in post”. And sometimes you have to fix post-in-post too. Like when a shot just isn’t working, you gotta throw it another bone.

    Filmmaking is not an exact science, therefore I disagree that a blueprint will solve anything. It might help, but it won’t save VFX.

    In short… too many cooks in the kitchen, too subjective and too ambitious on the current budgets.

    There needs to be a contingency fee built into the process.

  14. Paulo says:

    Without strike anything will change, we are 99% against 1% , or will change too slowly.

    If Iron Man3 orTransformers 4 are boycotted by example, we will win a lot of respect, because we are not the shit of production company

  15. Paulo says:

    strike from all studios with artists, I prefere strike than to be in bankruptcy

  16. Yogibear says:

    I urge you all to watch this episode of the simpsons…Marge vs. the monorail……it makes so much more sense now that I’m a VFX artist.

  17. Steve J says:

    When I lived in Manhattan, there used to be a tip jar at some deli counters – most notably Katz deli. When you want more than just a normal sandwich – you throw in a buck. The sandwich maker puts extra meat on the sandwich. Sometimes a crazy amount if you tip well. That makes sense to me – far more than what I see here in California sandwich shops (like Subway), which is – I’ll make you the standard sandwich, do the minimum, and you throw in the tip jar because somehow I deserve it by virtue of being overqualified or something. No one goes beyond the normal expectation to earn that tip here.

    Now, I have worked on some vfx shows where there is a flat bid, and the client’s vfx supe makes me jump thru hoops over and over to make something look just so, then shows to his director, who feels exactly the opposite about it. So I redo and redo through some janky communication chain where the two of them don’t agree and I waste hours and thousands of dollars trying to please both of them.

    What if…. I just did exactly what I was asked to do. Layout, take it a step further or so, almost final quality. Then, put out my tip jar. You want more? You want it bigger? Changed your mind now that my shots are in the cut? Corporate VP had a big idea to change that monster to a tank instead? There’s the tip jar. You know what to do. Otherwise, here’s your sandwich.

    I love tipping people for better service. I believe in it. When I go back to that restaurant, guess what? They are happy to see me. They buy me a drink. Give me extras – The go the extra mile again and again. It’s a show of appreciation. They give better quality even though it takes extra time and might even go beyond the job description.

    If someone is a bad tipper and very demanding, and they come back to the same restaurant and start asking for this on the side and special cheese and make it snappy…the a smart service employee/waiter WILL give them bad service on purpose. We, the vfx industry, are like an idiotic sandwichmaker who keeps making big, special sandwiches for customers who are cheap, spiteful, and demanding. Why? Why don’t we ALL start acting like the service industry? They have it figured out, why don’t we?

  18. vfxmafia says:

    Looks like some good news for DD……Looks like John Woo is bringing a movie to DD

  19. McLovin Pizza says:

    Meanwhile, looks like bad news for Motion Graphics:

    Superfad. They are closing down. Pizza anyone?

  20. tazzman says:

    Looks like Pixomondo Toronto shuttered and Burbank’s days are numbered.

  21. David Addison says:

    One need only see the trailer for Olympus Has Fallen back to back with the trailer for Star Trek Into Darkness to understand what visual effects are all about. Effects that contribute to story and suspend disbelief will always require talent, money and time.

    • wb says:

      agree…you are right David.
      But both are garbage – rubbish.
      Although , Start Trek is really “good” I will say – more elaborated at the Visual Effects level. But that’s all.
      As I said – you might skip them both. Your life can continue very nice and easy without this new form of intelectual pollution.
      And watch an old Charlie Chaplin instead. – or Kubrick or Kurosawa or De Sica….
      last good movie I saw ? – The Master .

      • McLovin Pizza says:

        Yeah I don’t get the JJ nut hugging either. Never did.

      • Rob says:

        Well but that’s what VFX simply is mostly used for. “Nobody” (and by that, I mean the average, moviegoing masses) wants to see something intellectually stimulating.

        But of course you still do have a lot of VFX that aren’t obvious in dramas these days and then there are of course things here and there like The Fountain, The Fall, etc.
        In fact, it is my next life goal to find a company that focuses on such comparatively smaller productions and offers decent working conditions. But ironically, it actually seems that the more meaningful the projects, the more exploitative the working environment. One would think that the people producing critical movies would be better than that.

    • time to vomit says:

      “Effects that contribute to story and suspend disbelief will always require talent, money and time.”

      as one who refuses to even watch the star trek into darkness trailer let alone see the film, let me start by saying that i do not doubt for one moment that the vfx in it will be top quality, coming from ilm.
      that said, i turned down an offer from ilm singapore to work on that dreck- but not because i am a star trek fan who despises what jj abrams is doing to a beloved series, but out of disgust at the pay i was offered. half what i get in london. in london i get half what i got in los angeles. made me wonder what the juniors at ilm singapore are being paid, if at all.
      when someone with ten or more years of experience is offered a job at a major studio but the pay is 1/2 what they got as a junior artist over ten years ago, there is something very wrong taking place.

      so where does the better pay get mentioned for better quality work?
      it has been my experience in the past few years that vfx shops don’t necessarily want talent, just warm bodies filling up seats. just pay these clowns less, add more of them, work them to death without overtime (in a london vfx house, you have to approve a contractual obligation to nullify your rights to only work a maximum of 48 hours a week legally or you do NOT work) …and eventually the work gets done.
      with all the crap going on in the vfx world i for one am far more concerned with the abuse of the workers, from illegal hours to outright character assassination/reputation destroing and outright blacklisting. that is far more upsetting than the race to the bottom in my opinion- it is part of the problem.

      • TimeToAct says:

        I agree, every film studio I’ve talked with continues to drop the offer amount. I know guys that are 5-10yrs my senior and very talented take 20% 30% rate cuts to support thier families.

        The difference is VFX artist have just gotten very good. So even if the studios are paying less, they are just getting better talent by default.

        Everyone is standing on thier own instead of together. You as an individual have little to no power over rates. Sign the Union cards, stand together with artist, not the facilities, and let make a difference.

      • Mclovin Pizza says:

        Agreed. I’ve worked with guys who were my senior and talented and took rate cuts. They are getting more and more desperate when they have to feed children, wives that don’t work and a mortgage. I chuckled to myself thinking, what a steal I was getting away with… I gave a high rate and because it was a desperate situation to fill a seat…my offer was accepted. Why? Cause I wasn’t as desperate as the guy with the mortgage, 3kids and at-home wife.

  22. Tom Roffman says:

    I think we forget that often VFX are only as good as the Client VFX Supervisor who approves and guides the work. And I hate to say they are more often than not LA Based professionals. I have seen not great CG by many oscar winning facilities over the years proving you are often only as good as the Client.

    I for one respect all the VFX guys in these countries who often do produce great work.

  23. Dave Rand says:

    Just back from Olympus …like watching fx from the 90’s. Nothing against our Bulgarian friends…it’s the wire…you would not raise your kids by video conference ..too much is lost…limited budget? All the more reason to get the best bang for your buck….live in the same breathing space as your artists and direct your movie like you actually give a fuck.

    • McLovin Pizza says:


    • Dave Rand says:

      We’ve come so far in realism and integration. The key to creating that is not waisting time mapping out the basic moves, timings, placement, color, and things that can only be moved along by the director actually directing ALL stages of the CGI. It’s all a matter of taste and that is very unique to the mind one person.

      Our biggest expense is not labor, it’s waste.

      The lack of focus due to our creative hierarchies and creative committees, the director being spoon fed his monthlies or bi-weeklies at best from the black box over a wire. VFX supervisors having to do their best to guess at this enigma of personal taste running through version after version… instead of standing by the director as the rest of the set does as an advisor and mirror to the creative process being generated by one mind.

      Fixed bids encourage this mess. Cost plus forces focus and personal attention in the flesh where the best creative communication occurs, like raising your child in person instead of over the phone. ….suddenly outsourcing makes less sense as the waste in direction incurred burns money that could be used on integration and realism with real eye to eye contact. Read the article linked above, and see the movie.

      Also….why do we have see Morgan Freeman playing Morgan Freeman over and over again.

    • VFX Worker says:

      Are you claiming that poor VFX results from a client not assessing shots in the same physical location as the facilities vfx supe? That doesn’t make any sense to me. Poor VFX results from not enough time, money or talent. It has very little to do with the director. He’s there primarily to make sure the visuals tell the story or to provide vision, not tech check comps.

      • Dank says:

        I would say its more VFX sups and leads grasping at directors aesthetic, instead of creating great VFX. “As an advisor” – great quote, this has been lost. When artist don’t have access to good VFX sups and leads that’s when the shows fall apart.

        Having or mostly not having access to a director hasn’t made much of a difference in my day to day.

      • Andreas jablonka says:

        I disagree. You ask your Vfx supes for guidance and they “guess” as to what the director wants. I prefer hearing it directly from the director, less confusion, more direct. Exactly what Dave said.

        Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting to remove the Vfx supe, he/she still needs to advise the director on the best way to approach things but more often then not I see a Vfx supe trying to put his own stamp on a shot or sequence and that’s the problem when the director disagrees with that look. It happened a lot.

      • Mark Spatny says:

        I can’t speak for Dave, but in my experience it makes a world of difference if the VFX Sup is in the same breathing space as the artists. Telling an artist that you would like something “a little brighter and more blue and feather the edges a bit more” over a video conference leaves a lot of room for error that will result in extra versions. Sitting next to an artist while he/she manipulates the settings until you see exactly what you want on screen before rendering saves a ton of time. If you go cheap and outsource overseas, you have to have more time in more post to compensate for that difficulty, or the shots will suffer. I don’t know why producers don’t understand that.

      • McLovin Pizza says:

        From Andreas: “but more often then not I see a Vfx supe trying to put his own stamp on a shot or sequence and that’s the problem when the director disagrees with that look. It happened a lot.”

        I agree with this being a serious problem.

        Perhaps the answer is:

        1) Sups. Stop trying to co-direct.
        2) Directors. Direct the goddamn film
        3) Studios. Empower the director, and give him the proper budget and schedule to make this work.

        There you have it. We have the answer.

      • Dank says:

        My point is I have only once maybe twice had access to a director. My director notes have always been translated notes of a coordinator or VFX sup. I’ve only worked in LA so location means nothing to director accessibility.

        I would also agree with:
        “but more often then not I see a Vfx supe trying to put his own stamp on a shot or sequence and that’s the problem when the director disagrees with that look. It happened a lot.”

      • Dave Rand says:

        “Our species is the only creative species, and it has only one creative instrument, the individual mind and spirit of man. Nothing was ever created by two men. There are no good collaborations, whether in music, in art, in poetry, in mathematics, in philosophy. Once the miracle of creation has taken place, the group can build and extend it, but the group never invents anything. The preciousness lies in the lonely mind of a man.” John Steinbeck

        I agree with this, I’d only change the term “Man” to “Person”….

        I’ve proven that it makes all the difference in the world both in creativity and the bottom line when the director is in house and unfiltered beating the lowest bidders from distant locations who wanted to create by teleconference twice a month, or be spoon fed their monthlies form the black box.

        Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it…

        They seem to be able to show up for every green screen shoot, just not for the actual construction of the movie…why?

        It’s a fixed price. The conventional set put a stop to that 80 yrs ago and got organized.

      • Dank says:

        It does help to hear thier words directly.

        I just think we have bigger problems right now then getting to talk with directors.

      • Mclovin Pizza says:

        As much as I love dave and really do agree with him. I think it’s not so cut and dried. The more I learn about this on the business side, I realize the flat bids are retarded. How can you blame the director for that. There flat out needs to be a better blueprint upfront and then overages. Period.

        From what I’ve learned the flat bids are based on shots with absolutely zero accountability for the level of difficulty in each. Just shooting in the dark.

        Ive not once heard a single figure mentioned about what the Pi effects cost. Hmmmmmm. That is suspect. Not that I’m concluding anything, just raises suspicions a bit.

        Instead I’m hearing alot of finger pointing. Now. I’m standing here in solidarity with my brothers and sisters. But I need to know more about what i’m fighting for and who I’m fighting. Otherwise this whole movement is full of us all flapping. Hope this makes sense.

      • Dave Rand says:

        “We have bigger problems right now than getting to talk to Directors”.

        Could not disagree more the fixed price has distanced all focus putting shops into tailspins on productions, losing money and going bankrupt. It’s allowed the subside and outsourcing models to thrive by creating an illusion that lessing the importance of human contactw with the decision maker in creativitty is a viable method of VFX production.

      • Dank says:

        I would say getting respect first is the most important thing we can do.

        You do make a valid point (you make lots of them) and I do agree with what you said, I just feel there are other things we should be focusing on first, many of those things you have stated and helped push forward, like Unionizing. I feel that the most important thing we should be focusing on, and all of this extra debate (important debate) I think is thinning out what should be our unifying stand.

        We should still be focusing on Step1. I really expected to hear by now that a facility is close to a vote or is having a vote. Since that isn’t happening I feel our efforts are spreading thin. If we can’t unite all VFX artist, we won’t beat subsidies.

      • Mclovin Pizza says:

        Dear Dave,

        Again I’m agreeing with you. But I still think that won’t solve jack shit amigo.

        If I went into a cake shop and ordered 800 cakes. Then turned around and said I want some of them to be 200ft tall, some 30ft tall and then a bunch of 10inchers… this sounds like the VFX model. That’s rediculous. I’ve never heard of a shittier business model in my life.

        And then: “oh yeah, we are going to take a break and then resume again when we tell you to. And have those freelancers ready to go. What, wait, they aren’t available now? Not my problem. Make it work on the budget! So what if a new guy needs to get up to speed for a week on the tiger, i don’t give a fuck.”

        Multiply that times the amount of jobs a vfx shop has. That’s absurd.

      • Mclovin Pizza says:

        (cont’d)….and sure the next step is having a director coming in and fucking with the color of the cake, wanting pink trim instead of boyish blue the vfx sup wanted. Yup problematic. But to me the whole thing needs to back the fuck up to the bidding process. Then resolve everything in a hierarchical relationship from there.

      • Dave Rand says:

        Dank and Pizza, cool…and yeah The Animation Guild has some good news coming on many fronts…I’ll let them tell. As for cards they’ve received hundreds, more that any time in history from the VFX folks. I believe our organization is inevitable. More to come in the following weeks. Right now we need shop stewards who’s role it is to answer questions and help with the organizing and dissemination of information. Mostly we need people to keep signing cards, you can do it online

      • Dank says:

        That’s great news, I think hearing stuff like that is really important. I think some people are still afraid to sign cards because they don’t think others are doing it.. or enough people are doing it. Sounds like things are actually moving in the right direction.

      • Mclovin Pizza says:

        A start…

    • vfxguy says:

      Doesn’t seem like auds care. $10mil yesterday and on course for $30mil this weekend. Should double its money no sweat.

      Someone forgot to tell the movie-going public that movies are nothing without good vfx.

  24. Butchyrapira says:

    Hi all,
    I’ve worked for WWFX but recently left. Conditions were horrible and most of the Bulgarian crew was payed 2.5$ per hour and treated like @#%t. That says it all.

  25. vfxTaiwan says:

    Hi, all
    Visual effects firm (R&H) to move into new Kaohsiung studio
    anyone here happens to know who is going to give them projects to work on. Bollywood? Chinese movies? or local movies.

    As far as I know, the starting salary in average there is about $730US/mo. If you are really good, you may get $1700US/mo. Most studios don’t pay OT there, 12hrs/day is the standard. Most experienced artists in VFX I know all left that country to work overseas because of very low wages and ridiculous hours plus no one really know what GOOD VFX is. Clients don’t care anyway. They want it to be cheaper and cheaper.

    I guess R&H opens branch there it is because of
    “Taiwan Becomes More Competitive As Wages Go Down”
    and the growing Chinese movie market.

    Good luck.

  26. vfxTaiwan 2 says:

    in taiwan the sweatshop is not only 12hrs , thats crap . but … the workvisa in us or ca , its really hard to take , so that they may go home to take low pay.and R&H Kaohsiung is booming , they hiring light comp modeler texturer now . not just roto work , whats the next ? i dont now

    • Mclovin Pizza says:

      Wow thanks for the insight. I believe it. Interesting that catch-22… Either way they get boned.

    • Mclovin Pizza says:

      I can tell you exactly what’s next. More modeling/texturing and comp continuing to be done overseas. Fuk if it’s that cheap and you are right many clients don’t know what good VFX is. Some do though.

      In the end it won’t matter. It will be whatever they can afford. Lets pray the studios don’t go to much further down the cheap route. Cause if they do… god help us all.

  27. Mclovin Pizza says:

    I think I want to name my next VFX company: SCHADENFREUDE

    Definition of SCHADENFREUDE: enjoyment obtained from the troubles of others.

    I’m being sarcastic because I am angry and bitter like everyone else.

  28. vfxis so***ed says:

    Is that trailer made @ ” HOME ” ????

  29. vfxmafia says:

    I dont mean to break topic hear.

    But is there any movies coming to LA for Fall release? (Is there any movie work in Los Angeles this summer?)

    1. Pixo seems dead as a doornail with rumors of shang hai closing etc…
    2. R&H ..doesnt look like its gonna make it past the loan dates…with weird articles about Taiwan floating about.
    3. DD has malevolcent….and thats it…..but then again DD is DD…
    4. Imageworks looks like it has Spiderman and thats it

    seems like Disney and Dreamworks ..are the only who dont seem to be going bankrupt….

    Maybe the VFXsoldier blog should have a job board? LOL

    All postings have is work in Vancouver…………

    • Dank says:

      Sony is doing Cloudy2, Smurfs2, and All you need is Kill.
      DD I heard was picking up something, but not sure if its this spring/summer.

      • tazzman says:

        DD is doing that John Woo film, but yeah, not sure when.

      • vfxmafia says:

        Cloudy 2 and Smurfs 2 is being done in Vancouver……I think they are still keeping matte and look dev in house…but animation and comp definitely in BC. Spiderman 2 probably have a small team starting soon.

        Im just curious if Los Angeles will have any big movies this summer for Xmas release?

      • Dank says:

        That’s not entirely true, They just added a good amount of fokes in LA, and there was still a good amount moved over from OZ on to those movies. From what I hear Imageworks Vancouver is a full house.

  30. nobody says:

    little OT: Life Of PI 2, currently in production 😉

    • time to vomit says:

      what i want to see put online is the entire life of pi film (or at least the trailer) without the vfx- not a single pixel.

      that way the whole world we could see what academy award winning cinematography really looks like.

  31. Hate to say it, but since “Olympus” is doing well at the box office, the message to the studios will be that picking fast & cheap over good does indeed pay off.

    • Time to act says:

      I hate that I agree with this..

    • Mclovin Pizza says:

      This has happened in almost every other related industry. It’s not about what is good. It’s not nearly about “what they can afford” and how they can maximize profit and ROI. Simple business 101. Imagine Mark Cuban running a studio. He has no taste for art whatsoever. He would manage the shit out of it, squeezing every dime.

      When you look at how he got rich…it’s because he was always practical first. Not in love with the art of what he does. But in love with the bottom line.

      Sorry to say folks. Pack your bags. Next stop: Cheapville.

      I don’t know where it’s going to go. But I’ll say this it’s going to get cheaper and YET more ambitious. If the carrot is re-dangled, the budget might go higher but you’ll be working more.

      Gauranteed. Look at commercials. Music Videos. Television.

      I know, I know…not the same exactly but business is business. And business will make itself clear.

    • vfxmafia says:

      We will see…. Olympus has the head start. The whole idea of the shadow film business model is the movie goer gets it confused with the quality version. It will drop off to 8 million next week…..with no good reviews

      be curious if it breaks even…..

      • Sour Grapes says:

        @vfxmafia: Cinemascore was A- for Olympus. They clearly did something right.

      • Andreas Jablonka says:

        well its 50% on rotten tomatoes…

      • vfxmafia says:

        to sour grapes:

        Olympus is a tired ripoff of “Let’s do die hard in the whitehouse”…made by a B level production company. Why would you want to defend a movie that quote: “approves 200 FX shots in a day”.?
        It did $30 million its first week (close to half the budget which is a great week for this movie)…..just saying it should drop off when word gets around how lame it is….

        but hey if it does make money…….it wont the first time a lame movie made money. Look at Twighlight franchise.

      • meinvan says:

        @vfxmafia: first off, if they made 30m in the opening weekend, which by your statement is nearly 50% of the budget, then they will certainly come out in the clear, and probably reap huge profits once all the international numbers are in.

        that said, this is based on what you said, so in not sure what the budget was, and ofcourse thats not counting the milions going into PR, (usually 50% of the budget)

        Also, no need to go at sour grapes for dropping a simple fact.

      • vfxpimp says:

        Olympus wasn’t that bad. Sorry not all movies can be made by ILM and look like transformers sort of like Battleship but Battleship sucked balls. Sony decided to make their bigger budget movie after another script got picked up with a similar the effects will look better. Not all big budget movies with great vfx are great movies

  32. Paul says:

    “My point is this: If you want VFX to look good and to be fast, you aren’t going to get it cheap.”

    Oh yeah? So how do you think your iPhone is made if not fast and cheap and why shouldn’t or wouldn’t that apply for vfx?!

    This fight is more and more getting nowhere.

  33. vfxTaiwan 2 says: is really bad ?? the car crash is great , and base fx is best vfx-workshop in china .

  34. andrei says:

    Until everything will be fixed …and the job will stay in USA ( CA) , VES came out with a “guide of relocation”

    VES Travel & Relocation Resources:

  35. Mclovin Pizza says:

    Anyone work with Rupert Sanders? Curious how he did as a first time feature helmer. Personally I wasn’t paying as much attention to the visual effects as I was the sweeping cameras. Maybe I should watch the breakdown when I get a minute. I’m sure I was hoodwinked a few times.

    Please report what he was like to work with…on Snow White and the Cuntsman. He seems like a director to watch.

  36. Mclovin Pizza says:

    Next Stop: The Mill TV
    All aboard!!!

    Pizza party to follow…

  37. Dave Rand says:

    Visual Effects Has Fallen

  38. […] VFX Soldier – Good, Fast or Cheap? […]

  39. WHD Tanks says:

    So, finally we get to see if all that extra money spent on White House Down was worth it.

    Let’s review…

    Olympus cost maybe $60mil and made $30mil opening weekend. (now $160 worldwide)

    WHD cost around $150mil and looks to open at $25mil


    It would seem the lesson is that throwing lots more money at a film, while certainly resulting in nice VFX and employing lots of people, doesn’t always work out well for the producers.

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