Over recent years France has established itself as a key hub for VFX work, driven by the talent and creativity of local players and extensive public support schemes.

In 2020, the VFX sector was given a further boost by the change to France’s Tax Rebate for International Production (TRIP) scheme, which now offers a 40% rebate on all eligible production expenses for international projects whose VFX expenses in France surpass €2 million ($2.27 million).

PIDS Enghien – the Paris Images Digital Summit in Enghien-les-Bains – runs from Jan. 26-29, including a series of presentations, round-tables and case studies, and presentation of the Genie Awards.

Yann Marchet, founder and managing director of PIDS Enghien, provides an overview of the key trends that will be discussed during the event.

What are the key recent achievements of the French VFX industry?

The two last years have been very important for the French VFX industry. In 2020, for the first time, a feature film, Ridley Scott’s “The Last Duel,” was eligible for the 40% Tax Rebate. An increasing number of international productions have decided to work with French vendors. Before, except for one or two companies, our VFX houses were primarily focused on the French market. It’s probably the beginning of a golden age for the French VFX industry.

What are the main upcoming VFX projects in France over the next 12 months?

In addition to Buf, MacGuff or Mikros (MPC Film & Episodic), which are used to having several major international productions in their slate, French vendors such as The Yard or Excuse my French are now working for the U.S. majors and the streamers. They’re not the only ones. I will be excited to show their work at PIDS Enghien next year!

What is the potential offered by real-time animation, such as Unreal Engine?

This offers a land of new opportunities for creators. With these tools, you can create incredible content with a small crew. There’s a huge potential and we are just at the beginning.

What opportunities are arising from VR, XR and the metaverse?

At PIDS Enghien, Marc Petit [general manager of Unreal Engine at Epic Games] will present his vision of metaverse and the opportunities for the VFX industry. We will have also a roundtable about “AR & Television,” and a case study about the VR experience “Le Bal de Paris” by Blanca Li, which won an award at the Venice Film Festival. The future of content will be multi-user and interactive.

What are key trends evidenced by the shortlist for the GENIE Awards?

With the GENIE Awards, we are celebrating digital creation and French VFX creators. It’s interesting to note that we have several projects that are also selected this year at the 20th Visual Effects Society Awards (“The Last Duel,” “Sumo,” “Green,” “Relativity”). That illustrates the diversity of the French digital creation and the creativity of our artists. We will give a visionary GENIE award to Rob Legato and also to Jerzy Kular and Xavier Nicolas, for the legendary pioneering VFX studio Ex-Machina. This studio disappeared 20 years ago but it played a major role in the acknowledgment of French VFX in the world, and has left a remarkable legacy. At PIDS, we celebrate innovation, the future of content and also the history of special effects. France is the country of Georges Méliès, who continues to inspire creators.

What are the highlights of this year’s case studies?

We will show several exclusive content, such as “Hôtel du Temps,” the new TV show produced by Thierry Ardisson. He will attend PIDS with Rodolphe Chabrier [MacGuff] to talk about the technologies used in this show, such as an artificial intelligence-generated tool called “Face Retriever,” which allows [the producer] to bring back legendary figures. “Vortex” is a TV series, starring Tomer Sisley, made in virtual production, using a LED Wall, for the first time in France. The director Slimane-Baptiste Berhoun will be there to talk about this incredible adventure. This TV series is in post-production. There will also be an exclusive case study [only in-person] provided by One of Us, to talk about “The Matrix: Resurrections.” We will also host Fortiche for the first time, the studio behind “Arcane,” and will have a session with MocapLab and Ubisoft on “Extreme motioncapture outdoors” with the game “Riders Republic.”

You also have a round table on “Small budgets, big effects.” What innovations are happening in this context?

The tools are more and more accessible. YouTubers can create contents where they use more and more VFX. One example is ATOM, who will participate in this roundtable. He has a YouTube channel where he creates incredible VFX. DIY is a real trend in VFX nowadays.

The Centre des arts in Enghien-les-Bains is a media arts hub. How does it fit into France’s overall structure in support of VFX, digital innovation and media arts?

PIDS Enghien is produced by the Centre des arts [CDA] in Enghien-les-Bains, which has been a member of UNESCO’s Creative Cities Network since 2013. At the junction of art, science and technology, the CDA is an innovations hub, and an expertise and consulting platform. There is a fantastic ecosystem in Enghien, creating a productive dialogue between arts, science and technology.