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‘War’ is hell for f/x shops

Pic's sped-up sked may cause problems for future titles

“War of the Worlds” didn’t blow up just the New England countryside and invading aliens. It blew out expectations for the f/x biz.

When Steven Spielberg‘s sci-fier sped through post and f/x work in record time to make its June 29 release date last year, everyone was duly impressed. Spielberg’s technical mastery, his long experience working with Industrial Light & Magic and ILM’s revamped production pipeline were all essential to the quick turnaround. Pic even landed Oscar noms for its CGI effects sequences by ILM.

But one f/x pro says “people lost years off their lives working 24/7” on the pic. And with f/x work on “King Kong” also hurried to completion, f/x shops worried that producers would demand that all pics follow a similar sked.

Now the signs are that’s exactly what’s happening — and f/x shops are paying a price.

Margins at f/x shops continue to fall, and with the accelerated schedules, many find there’s no alternative but to outsource work to India, Malaysia, Singapore and other low-cost locales.

The squeeze almost certainly helped drive the sale last week of f/x house Digital Domain to Wyndcrest Holdings, an investment group that includes helmer Michael Bay and former NFL star Dan Marino.

Bay and the other new owners say they’re making a renewed commitment to the biz and hope to expand into “direct development of animated films and effects-reliant live-action films.”

But with the U.K.’s tax incentives luring business to Blighty and outsourcing forcing work to Asia, DD’s domain may still be shrinking.

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