VES challenges effects industry

Org says 'magic' talk confusing for outsiders

The movie industry’s effects wizards would do well to let everyone see the man behind the curtain, according to the Visual Effects Society.

In “The State of Visual Effects in the Entertainment Industry,” the VES’s first-ever white paper, the org warned that the effects industry’s talk of “magic” has turned vfx into a “black box” that few outsiders understand — a situation that drives up production costs and undermines working conditions for digital artists.

The paper, written by Renee Dunlop, Paul Malcolm and VES prexy Eric Roth, challenged vfx industry to get involved in production earlier and educate others about what they do.

“The need to clarify the digital visual effects process has never been greater,” said the paper, noting that the misconception that simply adding more computers will solve vfx problems is helping create “what is approaching a digital sweatshop environment.”

“We have never sufficiently explained that the ‘magic’ of visual effects has never resided in technology; it resides in the people using the technology.”

The VES noted that about 20 of the top 25 all-time grossers are vfx films, and that vfx take up anywhere from 25% to 50% of a movie’s budget.

If vfx pros are brought into the process sooner, said the paper, production costs should fall as effects pros can point the way to “better creative and production decisions and, therefore, a more efficient production schedule.”

The white paper also had some ominous predictions for production jobs overall.

Entire job categories, even entire production departments, are likely to disappear over the next 5-10 years as digital artists take over more and more production tasks. Computer graphics techniques are likely to make matchmovers, compositors and rotoscopers obsolete and visual effects are usurping functions of other departments, especially the art direction, camera and costume departments.

“The situation we see today, when the technology of one department so directly impacts the potential future of another, is relatively rare,” said the white paper.

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