As the Demand for Visual Effects Grows, a Shortage of Artists Looms Ahead
There may not be enough artists to meet the every-increasing demand for visual effects shots, participants warned Thursday at the FMX animation and visual effects conference in Stuttgart, Germany.
“The Matrix was only 420 VFX shots. These days, it’s 2,000 [shots], certainly on a Marvel film, and they have gone up to releasing one more movie per year,” said Diana Giorgiutti, executive producer of features at Luma Pictures and a former Marvel producer. ...
Lionsgate’s senior vp of VFX Kathy Chasen-Hay feels it's “hugely risky” to go to just one VFX facility if a film has more than 500 VFX shots. “You just don’t know how much it will grow. You get a directors cut, and it’s easily 1,000 shots. You risk not delivering."
“There needs to be an understanding of how long things take; I try to keep an open dialog [on changes],” she continued. “There is such a huge benefit to the digital age, but also with the digital age, everything is instant. The director can keep changing things up to the DI [digital intermediate color grading stage]. We can even change the DCP [the digital equivalent of a film print], because we want to accommodate the creative. We want to accommodate the director.”
She added that a VFX project might start with a 30 percent profit margin "but when you're finished, you're lucky if it's 5 percent margin, because you can't control the creative." ...
Twenty years ago, I stood in a hallway at Disney Feature Animation North where Dinosaur was being made at great expense. A CG Supervisor was in an open door, talking about how demand for CG artists had outstripped supply, and CG animators, tech directors, and compositors were in great demand. And he said:
You watch, supply will catch up to demand, And we're not gonna have the leverage we do now. And studios are going to sub-contract to visual effects houses because they're seeing it's cheaper to farm the CG work out to hungry visual effects houses than do it themselves.
VFX studios make low-ball bids to get the work and then bankrupt themselves getting the work out. The studios have no problem with this, it makes the movies they make less expensive. No studio will have its own VFX department. ...
Two decades on, the supe's prediction has pretty much panned out. Supply DID catch up to demand, and outsourcing is now a global pastime, with Canada, Britain, France and various states in the U.S. of A. offering free money to our fine entertainment conglomerates when they come and do movie-making and visual effects to this or that geographical location. (Such a deal. Such subsidies!)
We're now at a time when animation and live-action visual effects have expanded so much that experienced workers are difficult to find. But the pendulum will swing back, as it always does.
And studios will continue to sub-contract the work, because it saves them money. Lots and lots of money.