Thursday, July 16, 2009

The New Low-Cost Animation Model!

We've talked about this before, but the New York Times provides texture and detail to our bright future:

Mass Animation... [made] a five-minute animated film using the Wikipedia model, with animators from around the world contributing shots, and Facebook users voting on their favorites ...

The completed short, “Live Music,” has been deemed of high enough quality by Sony Pictures Entertainment to warrant a theatrical run ... The finished film is made up of scenes submitted by 51 people, who received $500 per scene and a film credit for their efforts.

Yair Landau, the founder of Mass Animation (and a former digital and animation executive at Sony, where he oversaw production of the movie “Surf’s Up”), said he hoped “Live Music” was just the tip of this iceberg. His goal is to produce a feature-length film in the same manner, essentially pushing the heavy lifting off on a crowd ...

Using Facebook, Mass Animation invited animation enthusiasts — from total amateurs to professionals working in their spare time — to compete to create individual shots for the short ...

In the end ... about 17,000 downloaded the software application, Mr. Landau said.

You see how freaking great this is? Using the intertubes, thousands of animators get to do shots for free! And then out of those thousands, the winners pick up $500 bucks for their winning segments! And a screen credit!

Enter enough contests and do enough scut work, and you'll earn enough money for a fine, five-day stay at the Holiday Inn of your choice!

Truly awesome.


Anonymous said...

This makes me feel sick. What a scumbag Yair is. I can't believe ReelFX got involved in this.

Anonymous said...

I love this quote.

"I certainly see this as a step in the democratization of creative storytelling in Hollywood,” Mr. Landau said.

Since when has the public wanted their storytelling to be "democratic"? Democracy makes for good government, but not good storytelling.

The likelihood creating a releasable feature film this way is close to nil. There has already been at least one feature film made using this model (Tin Woodman of Oz), and without a staggering about of management and supervision, I don't think Yair is going to do much better.

Anonymous said...

How is this bad? It is not like the industry is going to suddenly change into this pipeline. Pixar, Dreamworks, ILM, etc won't do this. It didn't take away any jobs. This movie wasn't going to be made in any other way and was an experiment on an idea. And thousands of potential animators got a chance to be a part of something, and some very lucky ones actually got paid for it. They weren't doing it for the money or fame, some may have done it just to put something on their resume and break into the industry.

It is one thing if a studio fired everyone and decided to do this on one of their major films. But that didn't happen. This studio tried an experiment and asked for volunteers (who know what they are getting into and didn't do it for as a paying job) to create something that wouldn't otherwise be made in the current system. And it wasn't even going to be wide-released, its not like Yair was expecting to become a millionaire based on this film.

I haven't seen the film, but is it so good that it undermines the work that professional animators do? This is like professional building contractors complaining when a volunteer group builds a house for charity.

Anonymous said...

Look at the best (worst?) case scenario: this now wide-released film makes $100 million and only paid its animators a slave wage of $500. The next time Mass Animation tries to do this, animators revolt and refuse to work for that amount. Similar project never happens again.

People volunteered to work on this without asking for money. If the company makes millions off of the good faith of those volunteers they won't be able to get volunteers for the next one.

Heck, some students/amateur animators may actually get their first jobs based on their work on this film. Then they end up in TAG and pay dues. They wouldn't have had that opportunity without this film, so this is a good thing.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 11:55 is right!

I'd love to hear clarification from our union blogger. Is his brief comment a warning, criticism, mockery, or just a light comment of potential fact?

Anonymous said...

i think you may see a lot more of this in the future and a form of this was attempted for a feature film a few years ago but never got fully off the ground in that way.

Anonymous said...

This studio tried an experiment and asked for volunteers.

Yeah, that's all it is. No big deal. Why the agro?

By the way, I'm also conducting an experiment this weekend. I'm testing the viability of a certain house paint on my house. This test will be a great chance for painting contractors, and amateurs eager to prove they're capable of being painting contractors, to get some exposure and have some fun. Meet at my house at 8 am this Saturday. Bring your own brushes and rollers, I'll supply the paint.

And remember, if you do a good job I'll spread the word about how cooperative you were!

Curly said...

I also enjoyed this quote:

Eleven are women — the Hollywood animation mines are staffed almost entirely by men

11/51? Is that even slightly above the average ratio in features? Not in my experience. Looks like Mr. Landau found a very willing sock puppet in Brooks Barnes.

My 2 Cents said...

"The marketplace — advertising, gaming and, of course, Hollywood — is hungry for content, animated in particular, that is done in a faster, cheaper way."

That's the phrase that stuck in my craw. Not that the project was an interesting novelty or the harbinger of some fun new interactive art form; the animation version of American Idol, or America's Got Talent, no it has to have "significance." It has to be a "solution" to a "problem." And, what's the problem? Apparently-us!

Animation needs to be "cheaper" and "faster." It's too expensive! We have to pay qualified professionals actual salaries to do the work. How inconvenient! How old-school! It's time to get with it, get interactive, get it for free!

How do we know this? The "marketplace" demands it! Who? Apparently there is some mysterious authority that speaks only to the hippest among us, like the writer of the article.

Lay people will read this cultural elitist crap, believe it, and pretty soon everyone paying a living wage to an animator will feel like the victim of a Ponzi scheme.

Then, God help us all.

Steve Hulett said...

I'd love to hear clarification from our union blogger. Is his brief comment a warning, criticism, mockery, or just a light comment of potential fact?

All of the above. I thought it was pretty clear.

Steve Hulett said...

How is this bad?

If you can't puzzle it out, nothing I can say will help clarify it.

But the good news is, this "do it over the internet" thingamabob is a production concept that will have a tough time succeeding.

Anonymous said...

But the good news is, this "do it over the internet" thingamabob is a production concept that will have a tough time succeeding.

Strongly disagree. The software, internet speed, and overall technology is getting better and better and better.

One day the director will be able to have live real time dailies with animators sitting at home as if they were all in one room together and the story won't be hindered in the least bit. It will happen.

Now, will said professional animators work for $500/shot or even free? Absolutely not.

Only people who aren't good settle for getting paid like that.

Anonymous said...

For Producers and Studios Its all about the bottom line, and how to make a movie on the cheap. Over the internet is one method. Another method is sending your work to India. Sony Imageworks does it. Rhythm & Hues does it. Dreamworks Animation does it. As will others.
When all you care about is how much a movie costs, and not how it looks or how good the story is, the value you get on the screen shows its true colors.
You get what you pay for.

Palsadif said...

This animate at home online access thing is actually being done (successfully?)by this company;

g said...

One day the director will be able to have live real time dailies with animators sitting at home as if they were all in one room together and the story won't be hindered in the least bit. It will happen.

Have you ever worked on a feature film? It's extremely important to have daily, in-person conversation with your director. Not to mention constant interaction with your coworkers, lunch time festivities, and the "feel" of working on something together everyday, with someone sitting beside you. At Pixar, it was found to be very important to have community areas where people of different disciplines casually interact and potentially problem solve over a bowl of cereal and cup of coffee.

And I love the implication that paying animators is a "problem." You dont hear the same thing about ANY other profession. Imagine if suddenly there were open tryouts for the Lakers and they just grabbed people from the street to "prove their ability" and paid them 500 bucks if they made the team.

Hmm. Wait, thats not a bad idea.

Steve Hulett said...

Only people who aren't good settle for getting paid like that.

Which is my point about "doing it over the internet."

You can certainly produce something credible over the internet with well-paid professionals. That happens now.

But the business model of having a worldwide cattle call on wannabes, and then going through the ten thousand resulting submissions to find the diamond in the manure pile?

I seriously doubt that will go much of anywhere in the greater scheme of things.

Robert said...

I was involved with "The Tinwoodman of Oz" mentioned above. It was not done on a crowdsourcing model.

"Tinwoodman" was more a community theater model applied to animation. It was not intended as a substitute for a professional animation studio but as a interesting enthusiast project that people on a forum could be part of.

Just like community theater, some parts were done on a high level and some were not, but you take all of it because 25% of a movie would not be a movie at all.

It was not a "Waiting for Guffman" situation where everyone imagined it would make them famous. People got involved for the same reason that people train for and run marathons even though they KNOW they won't win... it was fun to try and to have been part of it.

My 2 Cents said...

I agree with you, Robert, that is the proper context in which to hold "Live Music." Nobody would be condemning the project and those who participated in it if it were clearly done in that spirit.

However, Brooks Barnes, the author of the article, possibly at the prompting of Yair Landau, is trying to to pass it off as something else entirely; he's implying that this project represents the future of commercial animation.

It's his grandiose claim of "What the market demands.." that I am referring to.

We all know what "the market demands" by some several very tangible indicators; record setting ticket sales and full theaters. The market demands films like "Up" "Kung Fu Panda" "Wall-E" and "Ice Age;" fully developed work by talented and experienced professionals given the time and resources to get it done right. These films are consistently making hundreds of millions of dollars. The "market" ain't broke. It doesn't need fixing. It's lacking nothing but more of the same. It's making no "demands."

What Mr. Landau wants to do, like people who buy lottery tickets or invest with people like Madoff, is get something for nothing. It's called theft of services. It's a crime. Just because he used social networking as a tool doesn't make it hip and trendy.

Unknown said...

To the aspiring artists reading this;
Don't ever shortchange yourselves by participating with garbage productions like this.
You deserve better! The only one who gains from this are the greedy producers! (May those cheapskate losers rot in hell) While you are left in the dark, no money , no fame , no nothing!

Do it the old fashioned way! Apply, go look for legit work, make your own, anything but these freebie in your ass deals! Not cool, man! someone 's gonna get hurt in the long run--.. there are NO shortcuts. You reap what you sow! We all have our dues and obligations-- you're only feeding your pups to the lion. Shame on the clueless guys who condone these practices!

Anonymous said...

I'm astounded at the fear exhibited in posts like the previous two! It's the fear of the Dodo bird enroute to extinction. "But the world needs giant flightless birds besides the Ostrich!"

Yes, a thriving industry needs the big, well financed projects---IF run by competent individuals like those at Pixar... However, what is wrong with a newbie volunteering his/her time on a project like Mass Animation? The artist gains experience and a portfolio piece and moves on to the next gig, richer in real world experience. If the alternative is waiting for a Union gig to kiss one on the forehead, pat one's ass and open the door to work paradise- it ain't gonna happen. Use the market, become one of the best, demand employment on your terms. Many in the industry have prospered this way, in Union and non Union gigs despite a concerted, organized effort to deny it. To propagandize against such an opportunity to a young artist is ludicrous and reeks of fear. Let the bold and the best climb the mountains of their choice. Don't hold down talent. As long as they know what they're getting into, there is no harm

Anonymous said...

I can't imagine continuity being any good. And of course the problem with volunteers is that if you need a retake (for whatever reason) you can't depend on them necessarily being there to do it! You may not even get what you assigned them. It's film school "let's make a movie" mentality all over again. Sure you can come up with some great stuff, better your skills, & even find that diamond in the rough, but there's also the people that for one reason or another you can't depend on. that's great if there's no schedule. but if you're trying to make a short to go at the front of a film or a feature that's dependent on a release date, I fear for the few paid or head people on those projects. LOTS of late nights trying to save it. But if you're paying someone then you can at least use that to get them to work or use that money to find someone else to do the work.

My 2 Cents said...

To Anon 9:32,

Dodo bird? Hardly- They are talking about a feature film; a faster, cheaper "democratic" feature film. Go back and read the entire article-that's the entire point of it.

Why are you so intent on defending this project? It reinforces the propaganda that the animation industry has been relentlessly perpetrating for decades, now: Animation is too expensive. Animator's inflated salaries make animation too risky an investment. Send it overseas. Do it as cheaply as possible or you'll go out of business. Every time an animated film fails, a studio dies, etc. The propaganda has been so effective, we see studios making hundreds of millions of dollars on film after film and still crying poverty. Hello?

Animation also breeds a particular kind of narcissistic producer; someone who fancies himself the next Disney. He considers himself such a unique genius that it should be considered such an honor and reward just to work for him that you shouldn't mind not getting any pay or credit.

Mr. Landau appears to be such an individual. "What the market demands" should read, "What Mr. Landau wants."

Why does anyone need the "fun" of participating in a project like this? If you want to break into the business just do a damn sample reel. Use whatever characters you want to and set up scenes that will show off your skills in the best possible light. Why waste them feeding somebody's runaway ego?

17,000 thousand scenes were submitted. 51 were used. At least 16,049 people wasted their time chasing a reality-show dream.

And what about those 51, who got, ("wow!") $500.00? "Live Music" will be screened commercially along with, "Planet 51" (coincidence?). Will these artists get residual checks? What do you think?

Unknown said...

Did Quentin did it for free? What about Miyazaki? or Lucas? Did WALT did it for free? Bluth? No, he & his friends done it in the garage themselves and never asked anybody in the whole world to do it for them.. So, why in the hell should anyone on Facebook do it for free? Be a man; grow a backbone, put up the cash and PAY UP like everyone else if you want a freakin' badass movie! Now, get this to your uber-thick skull-- NOTHING is ever free! The minute you were born in this world, somebody else already paid for you to stay alive... the "democratic" ground that you're standing on has been paid for in blood by the forefathers of the US of A!!! I feel sorry for anyone who bought into these scams!!

51 x $500. = $25500 Way to go! cheapo indeed!

Anonymous said...

the feature film version of this process is well on its way.

Anonymous said...

And the world won't even notice. Mark my words, more people will read the dimwitted newspaper articles about the "new paradigm" than will see the actual movie.

Unknown said...

Academy award for "best opportunistic ploy to take advantage of inexperienced and gullible artists" goes to----

My 2 Cents said...

What made my skin crawl was not the short itself, or the way it was done. It was the obvious delight and excitement of the writer at the prospect of amateurs doing a commercially viable animated film.

When did professionals become the enemy?

I think this kind of thinking is the stepchild of decades of corporate anti-union propaganda. It has become an American cultural myth and the implicit star of every reality show that doesn't have "celebrity" in the title: The exiting discovery of amateur savant-the "Joe" who out performs the "pros."

Actually, there is a little more behind it. The project was sponsored by Intel. Think about it. How many processors in how many computers will be sold to kids dreaming of becoming CG animators?

On the other hand, isn't the amount of people who entered the contest testimony to how difficult it actually is to break in, even for committed, trained beginners and re-trained professionals? Shouldn't it be an itsy-bitsy teeny-tiny bit easier?

Anonymous said...

At the same time it's not like as if Unions are totally good things. Toronto's been stranded because the garbage pickers union are on strike for 4 weeks!!!!

Anonymous said...

Just like art tests in the game industry- except no one seems to mind about them.

Unknown said...

The garbage strike of Toronto is more greed related... they didn't even lose their jobs, they just want more when they already got what they wanted the last time they made a deal..
good timing cuz it's recession! a very messy issue.

Animation troubles are far much worse... animators can lose a job anytime and there's little they could do about it.. in this case, Unions for animators are essential as talents could be exploited just about any sector...whereas, I can get ol' Eddie to pick up my garbage anytime and pay him.

Fair deal is all we ask.

Carly C said...

It's actually for this very reason that I avoid contests on deviantArt that are partnered with big time companies. They tend to look for concept designs for themselves to copyright and just give you an ipod or something like that.

However, I am part of a feature film project like this that's been in production for the last 3-4 years where no one is being paid for it. It's a slow process, but it's coming out as nice as it could I guess lol.. I got on it because I figured it'd look nice on a resume.

I might join the Don Bluth contest though just for the learning experience of a production. I'm just not fond of the fact that you have be a premium member just to join it.

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