Monday, May 28, 2007

The "Go To" VFX House

Back when Disney was working on Dinosaur at Disney Feature Animation North (next to the Burbank Airport), a Wise Old Computer Supervisor said to me:

"There's just no profit margin for effects studios who specialize in just digital visual effects. The studios ask for bids from all the different houses, and they all cut each others' throats under-bidding each other..."

All except for one. Which Daily Variety profiles here:

ILM is lead shop or a major contributor to four of the summer's biggest tentpoles, all opening between Memorial Day and late July: Disney's "Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End," Universal's "Evan Almighty," DreamWorks' "Transformers" and Warner Bros.' "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix." The effort has to be one of the most prodigious technical accomplishments in the history of the biz...

"We were booked to just over 100% of capacity," says ILM topper Chrissie England of the push to get the quartet of summer films done.

ILM had to turn down some "Pirates 3" shots, and warned all clients that the f/x house didn't have excess capacity for any large, late additions.

There are a myriad of effects shops that can execute big, complicated shots studded with collapsing bridges, or giant marauding robots, or waves of attacking fighter planes. But studios want a comfort level that they only get by going with a big-name supplier who they believe can guarantee results. (No hot-shot director wants his big, special effects-laden action sequence loused up by some no-name operation in the San Fernando Valley.)

Funny thing is, a year or two after my conversation with that Wise Old Supervisor, Disney (with much fanfare) put together its very own internal special effects house called The Secret Lab, designed to do Disney's live-action features and also bid for outside work.

But do you think that Disney used its sparkly new TSL effects division for the money shots in the Disney big-budget extravaganza Pearl Harbor? Noooo. That gig went to ILM.

I mean, there are effects houses. And then there are effects houses.


Anonymous said...

How I remember those awful days.

That was back when Disney couldn't figure out if they were in the digital business, or out of the digital business.

Not sure if they still know.

Anonymous said...

Didn't ILM let go like half their crew about three years ago?

I thought they were going to downsize and opt on a smaller business model...

oh well...good for them I guess.


Anonymous said...

>Didn't ILM let go like half their crew about three years ago?


todd vaziri .

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