Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Amazing, Expanding DD

Wait a minute. Wasn't Digital Domain having a problem making money? Apparently that was then and this is now.

On the heels of the recent announcement of its plans to open a visual effects studio in Vancouver, BC, Digital Domain (DD) is enlarging its footprint further. The Venice-headquartered, Oscar-winning visual effects house is working with parent company Wyndcrest Holdings to build a digital production studio in Port St. Lucie, Florida.

The new studio will create original content for animated feature films and video games. Plans are in the early stages, and Digital Domain expects to begin operations in Florida next year. ...

You see? The power of animation is so great, so all encompassing, that even studios that never turn a profit expand to other countries and states, in search of that elusive positive cash flow.

And where better to do it than Florida, the Mumbai of the United States?


... said...

Could it be "Transformers 2" money coming in? After all, Bay owns DD....

DD opening in Vancouver is better news than the one about Pixar opening one there.

Huh? said...

Bay? I thought it was Cameron who owned it...?

Anonymous said...

Cameron bailed out of DD after Titanic.

Anonymous said...

My guess: They aren't expanding to Vancouver and Florida, they are MOVING to Vancouver and Florida. They'll keep a skeleton/sales crew in Santa Monica, but the meat and potatoes production is going out-of-state. Time to face facts -- business is fleeing California. Denial won't solve anything.

david a said...

Hey now! There are plenty of great animators in Florida ;)

Anonymous said...

Yawn. DD has tried to get out of the "service" mode before. They need new management and producers--the one's they've got are entrenched in the fx business, which is not the same as the animation business. This was plain to see when their initial public offering collapsed due to lack of interest primarily due to DD having no experience in the creation of content.

They're going to have to get used to the fact that just because you can do fx does not mean you can tell a story. And that's all audiences care about.

Steve Hulett said...

Hey now! There are plenty of great animators in Florida

It ain't a matter of talent, but of wages.

Anonymous said...

Animators are easier to find than good film makers and storytellers, and good producers.

Anonymous said...

Another one flees southern California...

g said...

Animators are easier to find than good film makers and storytellers, and good producers.

But what about "good" animators?

Anonymous said...

Harder to find, but STILL more common than good film makers, storytellers and producers.

Where's Stanley?? said...

@ the last blogger:

Should've said that before, cause it sounded like you're putting down animators.

Time and time again, when reading articles on the subject of studios looking for talent, the studios often complain about how hard it is to find good talent.

I do grant you, that directors and outstanding storytellers are few and far between. But that's also a matter of judjement. I think Michael Bay sucks ass.

Kubrick past away a loong time ago and he left a deep gap.


Anonymous said...

Thing about good animation is, it's essential. It might even be THE most important thing, slightly behind a good story.

Good models cant save bad animation, good lighting cant save bad animation, good directing cant save bad animation, good rigging cant save bad animation, good cinematography cant save bad animation. But good animation can save ALL of those things. Heck, good animation can even save a bad story if it has to (points to Ice Age 3). You get my point.

Hearing that animators are "easy" to find is wrong, and frankly, insulting. Ive been on a couple of films where the animators suck and shots have to be redone, because the animation HAD to work.

The producer mindset that animators are "easy" to find, coupled with the implication that they are expendable is complete nonsense.

Funny how Pixar doesnt layoff mass amounts of animators. Wonder why that is.

Anonymous said...

For what it's worth, I heard DD laid off most of its commercial department yesterday. :-(

Anonymous said...

Funny how Pixar doesnt layoff mass amounts of animators. Wonder why that is.

Funny how DreamWorks doesn't, either. And funny how the success of those two studios towers over that of every other feature animation player.

Anonymous said...

Bah, Animators have the biggest egos in the Biz. They have 2-3 layers of support, rarely solve their own problems and constantly have to be reminded are talented and precious they are. Compensating much? Yawn. No other discipline is full of so many TDs who are as high maintenance or is full of themselves. I have worked on 12 features now and all the disciplines are necessary for a quality production. Any weak link can ruin the effect, and if you think good animation can save anything on top of solid pipeline tools, decent models, quality rigs, or top notch lighting and compositing, you are self absorbed, ignorant and a immature newbie. Time to grow up.

Anonymous said...

You resort to name-calling and insults, yet I'm an immature newbie?

There's no getting around the fact that bad animation can singularly ruin a film. The same can NOT be said about any other discipline other than story. Period.

Want an example? Give an animator a 6-sided cube and a lattice, and they'll give you an award worthy short film.

There's no winning this argument. You're wrong. "Precious" or not, good animators are the backbone of any successful animation studio. Sounds more to me like you have jealousy issues.

Anonymous said...

"Kubrick past away a loong time ago and he left a deep gap."

And he made a handful of good movies. All interesting, some great.

"good animators are the backbone of any successful animation studio. Sounds more to me like you have jealousy issues."

As I said, "good" animators are hard to find. "Good" meaining animators who respect the "whole" of the film, and also respect the "whole' of production. There's a whole lot more to film making than "animation." And the best animators realize this.

Anonymous said...

Poor modeling, lighting, and rigging all can ruin a film. Just because YOU only notice animation does not mean that is all the rest of us see. You are clearly focused in on animation so that is where your judge of a good film lies. The average joe could care less, How else do you explain the close to a billion dollars that Polar express, beowolf, monster house have all raked in. Shrek had average animation at best, but has made a killing.

Most animators are helpless without a team of support staff to create every widget for them, and a team of modelers and riggers to set up their scene. They never want to trouble shoot their stuff and always demand every resource. Then the back-end teams like shading, lighting and compositing make the film look beautiful so the public can begin to care about it.

Ba, motion capture will eventually replace all the animators anyway. what will u do then except whine about the good ole days. everyone go see xmas carol in 3 weeks and make an animator cry...

Anonymous said...

"Bah, Animators have the biggest egos in the Biz. They have 2-3 layers of support, rarely solve their own problems and constantly have to be reminded are talented and precious they are. Compensating much?"

Bitter are we?

Sounds like you should grow up yourself there Chief.

If you're that bitter after 12 features, why dont you retire.

Anonymous said...

Well, it's nice to see some things never change, just the names of the players.

20 years (or more) ago this conversation goes like this --

Animator : Clean-up ruined my brilliant scene.

Clean-Up artist: I saved that lousy animation. That spoiled prima donna animator can't draw on-model if his life depended on it.

Animation Checker: I saved both their asses . The leveling was all wrong on that scene and they staggered the numbering on two levels so nothing was registering properly. Will these people ever learn to read an X-sheet ?


Anonymous said...

Ba, motion capture will eventually replace all the animators anyway

Um, no. Motion capture will be worthless for movies like Finding Nemo, Wall-E, Cloudy, Ice Age, Kung Fu Panda, Bolt, Cars, Monsters Inc, Madagascar, How to Train Your Dragon, Horton Hears a Who...etc etc

Wow, you just buried yourself with THAT one. See, you're still wrong.

But you're also missing the point, and just gettin your panties in a bunch. Besides, I think you're stereotyping animators by saying they're helpless and primadonnas. In fact, out of all the departments, its more likely that animators have touched every discipline to make it into animation. I dont think the same can be said about lighters or modeling or shader/surfacers. Most animators I know can also rig, model, write tools, light, composite, and are excellent illustrators.

Maybe you just have no idea how much animators do, and how hard it is to find good ones.

g said...

Poor modeling, lighting, and rigging all can ruin a film.

Of course, but poor modeling, lighting, and rigging can also NOT ruin a film. But if the animation is bad, the film is most likely not going to be well received.

Hoodwinked is a good example of that. It had a good story, decent enough design and lighting, but the animation was abysmal. It ended up just doing okay in theaters, though it had the potential of doing great.

Anonymous said...

Hoodwinked made a ton of money, and poor anything can ruin a film, animation is no more or less important then any other discipline. Hoodwinked was clever and well told despite poor production values and it was a sleep hit for hits budget.

How is motion capture worthless for all the pixar and dworks releases, cause you wish it to be so? Pixar will fight the technology im sure, but in the end you cant stop technology. There will always be a place for hand animation, even if its to clean up mocap data, but it is no more or less important then the other disciplines.

Of course there are some animators that can do multiple disciplines, but in my experience they are few and far between. Of course these days most have gone through an art school program and touched most of the other disciplines in a superficial way to graduate, but I have found they are the most high maintenance and least self sufficient of any other TD. Animators are the only dept to insist they are more important then the other disciplines and long for the old days of 400k a year salaries for leading a character at Disney. Its a team effort now, and they are no more or less important then anyone else on the production.

And to say hoodwinked had decent design and lighting shows that you no nothing about said disciplines. The look of the film was terrible, but again, the story and execution was clever and so it did well. It was the story and writing that allowed it to excel.

Anonymous said...

We go through this time and time again. Could Hoodwinked have been a better movie if it had a 100mill spent to make it? It could've looked better sure and by that view have been a 'better' film, but woiuld it have made enough money to offset the huge budget and make as much profit as it did? Probably not.
As noted above it worked despite the weak production values because of good direction and storytelling - just as in almost every movie. Great animation (and all that comes with it) will NOT save a bad story or direction. Go ask John & Ron and Gary & Kurt.
Go ahed and point out how much better a movie is with great animation. No one's arguing that point, but if that comes at too great a cost it will also drown a film and not allow it to show a big enough return.

Anonymous said...

Great animation (and all that comes with it) will NOT save a bad story or direction. Go ask John & Ron and Gary & Kurt.

Im not saying that. I rank the importance as follows:

1. Story
2. Animation
3. Everything else

Is it possible to sort it any other way? I dare anyone to prove it otherwise.

Anonymous said...

Hoodwinked made over 100 million world wide and cost around 15 million to produce. It was made in the Philippines by relative unknowns and was not directly competing with Pixar or Dreamworks, or Blue sky. It was a great financial success for Miramax.

Quality animation is not what putting people in seats, its story, marketing, and concept. You have to grab the attention of your average 8-15 year old. Pixar did this with their early films through top notch humor and story, and whether you like to admit it or not, the novelty of 3d animation at the time when they had no competition. Now they are coasting and making quality movies, but they are enjoying being a brand. Nickelodeon and cartoon network properties make a tone of dough at the box office with average animation at best, and so do the Simpsons and Family Guy. why? Cause of writing and concept and marketing. Iron Giant had great animation and failed at the box office because of bad marketing. It was an A picture treated like a B movie by the studio and the public received it as such. Until Disney Feature switched to 3d, their last few 2d films all tanked, and it wasnt for lack of animation quality in them, it was because they were 2d competing in a 3d game and because they were only OK stories, they failed to capture kids imagination. Beavis and Butthead, King of the Hill, and South Park are all more examples of incredible lucrative properties with limited animation. What about almost every Anime product out of Asia, with their animation done on 2s and 3s and terrible performances, but again concept prevails and they gain the public's interest.

How about Happy feet, with its motion captured dance moves and great look. It was the character design, lush look, and song and dance numbers that sold that film, not any traditional animation techniques.

I would argue the look of a film is equally important to grabbing the public's attention, its what you notice first, and allows for great marketing opportunities. And that does not mean just Lighting and compositing, any weak link in the chain can spoil the aesthetic. Your average Joe wont be able to tell the difference between average animation and great animation, but if the move looks great, it will sell it. Hence the success of every mindless FX movie that comes out like Xformers 2.

And you can motion capture all kinds of different beasts and creatures and characters, you just need human performers to act the part, or actually motion capture the beast in question.

Anonymous said...

You have a good argument. Damn, I'll have to rethink my position.

But I still love being an animator :)

Anonymous said...

And you should, I hope I get to work with you one day. If you are that passionate about your craft you are probably very good at it as well. Truce.

Anonymous said...

Nope, sorry. I disagree.

As an example: Luxo Jr.

Take away the animation. Put in your lighting, rigs, models, audio, etc. and what do you have?


I agree with the earlier assessment that what is of greatest importance is:

1. Story
2. Animation
3. Everything else.

This is because good animation is also contributing mightily to the story. In essence, it is the second half of "story." A good animator is one who actually generates additional story ideas and puts them into his scene, enhancing the characters and humor. Creating story ideas that weren't in the boards. Of course, animators like that are relatively few, but those few are indeed some of the most valuable members of the crew.

No, there is no way for a human actor to motion capture "act" the part of Wall-E. Or Marlin. Or Woody, or Remi, or the Genie, or any of a host of well known animated characters. The best animated characters are moving in a designed fashion, creating graphic shapes in their poses that are impossible in the "real" world. They are changing graphic shapes on a frame-by-frame basis that is entirely unlike what a "real" actor could do.

The other "downstream" disciples are important for completing the mood and atmosphere. This is critical if you want a quality-looking movie. But make no mistake--good animation absolutely makes the difference. Nobody would give a rat's ass about Scrat if not for the way he was animated.

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