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TIGHT SCHEDULES PUT SQUEEZE ON F/X HOUSES

While post-production schedules on feature films continue to shrink, the number of effects intensive features is on the rise. In the past few months, a handful of the highest-end post and effects facilities have been working long hours on “Casper,” “Batman Forever,” “Apollo 13” and “Waterworld.”

Post execs say the process will become even more compressed.

“Schedules will be shortened and there will be more pressure,” says Joe Matza, chairman of Hollywood effects house Composite Image Systems. “You can only shove so many images through a pipeline, and we’ve seen a tremendous output lately. But I don’t think Hollywood could have handled one more effects movie during that time.”

Because digital post is more expensive, studios are forced to economize by cutting back on time in the edit or effects bay.

That can result in decisions made at the last minute, adding to an already hefty workload. And eleventh-hour decisions can be costly, says John Dykstra, visual effects supervisor on “Batman Forever.”

“As post-production schedules become more compressed, you have less time to determine how images fit into a film,” he says, adding that effects cinematographers shoot more material than they’ll ultimately need, in order to have several choices during the short time allotted for editing.

But despite long hours and, occasionally, a dearth of input from the film’s key decision-makers, facility honchos say their side of the business is well positioned for solid growth in the next few years.

“We’re always developing faster and better ways to work, and this company, like others, has expanded to accommodate more shows,” says Andrea D’Amico, visual effects producer at Pacific Ocean Post, which worked on both “Batman Forever” and “Waterworld.”

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