Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Middle Kingdom Viz Effx

The Daily relates:

With most visual effects companies in Hollywood suffering financially, doing business in China would seem to be a natural route to expansion, driven by the rapid growth of the world's second-largest film market.

"We will increase the number of our artists by 20 percent because we expect there will be more projects to work on this year," said Wu Yan, general manager of Technicolor (Beijing) Visual Technology Co. ...

Over the past few years, Technicolor (Beijing) has barely made a profit although it doesn't have to worry about getting orders from movie production companies.

Wu attributed the awkward situation to the high labor costs and innate uncertainty in the film industry.
"More than 60 percent of our operational costs go to artists, leaving the rest for technological upgrades, including the purchase of hardware and software," he said.

"The annual income of our top artist here is about $80,000, almost the same level as that in Hollywood," Wu said.
The monthly salaries of artists who only recently joined the company and who have been promoted to a middle-level position range between 2,000 yuan ($321) and 10,000 yuan. ...

The visual effects industry in California is passing through the same dark tunnel that animation for television went through forty years ago: Layoffs, work shifting overseas, and people wondering if the stateside business will survive.

American animation has (so far) continued in L.A., but dislocations have been painful. Ink and paint moved offshore, followed by animation. Artists who had animated at light boards shifted to storyboard work, layout and design. Some left the business.

Now, fifty years further on, layouts are seldom seen, but storyboard work remains a cornerstone of California animation, along with character and color design, as well as script writing. And animation in the form of flash has made a return to Hollywood and the San Fernando Valley.

Watching the rise, fall and rise (again) of cartoon work gives a blue print of where computer generated visual effects could be going over the next several years. Yes, work will shift offshore or points north. But lots of it will remain in Southern California because the talent pool is wide and deep, many overseas supplier are unreliable, and studios are usually staring at hard release dates and so can't afford to have people who speak English as a second or third language make unforced errors on a movie designed to save American entertainment conglomerates from fourth quarter doldrums.

The work might be global, but energy, reliability and the capacity to get shots done will keep a chunk of production in and around Los Angeles.


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