Bigger! Faster! Cheaper!

I have described VFX++ as the culmination of cheaper hardware and the accessibility of software.  Today's laptop has the power of an 1980's supercomputer, and graphics software is cheap or easily pirated.  In other words, a teenager in his bedroom now has the possibility of competing against established facilities.  Disruptions have occured many times over the years, and this is indeed a disruptive step.  This is not the first time this has been so.  The visual effects industry has always been challenged.  As motion pictures demand ever more impact, visual effects professionals are continually scrambling to create high quality images faster and cheaper.  The industry adapted to the advent of sound, the invention of video, even the arrival of computer graphics… but somehow, this change of the mid nineties was different. 

But what was different?  The delivery and communication process. 

The internet, with its web pages, email, and collaborative possibilities has forever lowered the bar for entry in the game.  Consider this situation

  • Anybody can make a virtual company online without any brick and mortar presence.
  • "The "Product" (rendered film frames) can now easily be transfered over the net.
  • Instant messaging and other communication systems mean that artist and technicians can distribute work across the globe easily. 
  • Proprietary technology has been overtaken by off-the-shelf materials. 

VFX Companies are some of the most creative entities around, but this is a tough set of circumstances to compete against.  They have always used cutting edge technology, and that practice has led to many innovations. Motion control and CGI are just two examples.  Both of which were revolutionary when they were introduced.  However, this continual R & D has a cost.  Movie producers have demanded visuals that surpass what studios did the year before, at a lower cost.  This has forced the industry to pursue alternative solutions to ever-expanding budgets. 

  • Boutique houses briefly came into vogue as large facilities succumbed to market pressures. 
  • In-house vfx departments were tried by various content providers, but ultimately were disbanded due to unprofitably. 
  • By far the most controversial step was the establishment off-shore facilities. 

Globalization is a reality in today’s world.  Just about every industry has been affected by it.  The VFX industry has not fared particularly well in this area.  Perhaps it is naive belief that the rest of the world can not compete, or innovate.  I think it is simply that the industry does not want to deal with globalization.

Whatever the reason, the industry has been changed in the last ten years, and will never be the same.