Thursday, December 23, 2010

Farewell CafeFX: A Sign of the Times

John Montgomery echos in FXGuide's Quick Take section what we've all been reading in the twitter and blog space today. Another venerable visual effects establishment has cashed in their chips.

CafeFX, formerly of Santa Maria and Santa Monica, California, announced in a one page letter on their website today that they've officially called it quits. In the letter, Jeff Barnes and David Ebner state:

The current economic climate and global marketplace have made it unrealistic for us to continue [...] at a competitive price and a sustaining profit.

I see it a tad differently ...

I have no first-hand experience of CafeFX, other than the reception area in Santa Monica which saw quite a few of my demo reels. I do have friends who spent time within their halls and reported nothing but good things. Perusing their list of film credits shows the kind of experience and work the studio was capable of.

As Steve Hulett noted in a previous post, turnover among visual effects studios can be high. Profits can be scarce and competition is strong.

What's also important to note is that as the industry continues to evolve, the need to come up with new business models does too. Not knowing how The Computercafe Group operated, I can't say with certainty what was the major cause of their demise. I can say that change, while a thing most fear, is an inevitability.

Its refreshing to see new ideas proposed. It shows that change is in the air. I remember a time when the big places for a Lightwave Artist to go were Foundation Imaging or Netter Digital. I also remember hearing that a few people from FI broke away and were working on this weird SciFi project out of a garage somewhere. The project had a peaceful, Serene name. They also had some funny name for their studio. I think it started with a Z.


Anonymous said...

I'm sorry. I don't get it.

What is it that you see differently?

I'm just curious. I know next to nothing about CafeFX.
(Pardon my ignorance).

Steve Kaplan said...

The global marketplace and current economic climate aren't reasons that effects shops are closing. Change will come and shops like Asylum and CafeFX weathered their fair share of it. The industry has bemoaned globalization for over a decade and still these shops succeeded.

My point is change is inevitable. The mettle and desire to deal with it is what wanes.

Anonymous said...

Companies like ILM are suffering, too. Although they're doing the digital work on Rango, they're still only a service company (the main story/design work being done in Los Angeles). And from the looks of the trailer, they're struggling mightily.

All the clone wars stuff is done in Asia (Singapore, Viet Nam, Philippines, Thailand).

Lucas himself is making a go at creating an animated feature about fairies.

Creating content is the only way to go for FX companies. But until they can prove they can do it, the cycle of undercutting the competition and underpricing the jobs will continue to kill the FX business. The studios still hold the largest keys to mainstream distribution.

Nigel said...

Sad to see CafeFX go, I really enjoyed my time in Santa Maria. Best of luck to James Straus, who was the best animation supervisor I've ever had.

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