The Biggest Problems in the VFX Industry

On Sunday night, "The Jungle Book" took home the Oscar for best visual effects. It shines a spotlight on how a story can rely so heavily on VFX, but how the industry continues to sideline the people behind it. A newly released short documentary is showing us just how digital art is a race to the bottom.

In a collaboration project, “Hollywood’s Greatest Tricks” hits a nerve in the film industry. As huge production houses are barely making ends meet there’s little hope for the artists themselves. In 2013 Rhythm and Hues filed for bankruptcy, marking a serious issue. In the same year they were awarded with an Academy Award for “Life of Pi.” Clearly the level of artistic merit is not translating to good business.

Digital Domain nearly went bankrupt when they created “Titanic’s” visual effects with James Cameron. Losing nearly $9 million back then, and eventually filing for bankruptcy in 2012 before being bought out the next year. Advertising and commercial production may not be quite as tight or as crazy, especially in London, pointing to Technicolor’s acquisition of The Mill in 2015 for $275 million. Unfortunately while markets are different and some companies are growing, the individual artist appears to still be getting the short end of the stick.

"The Jungle Book," directed by Jon Favreau, pulls the audience into Rudyard Kipling’s book, and deep into the jungle. However, the entire film was shot in downtown Los Angeles with the help of Peter Jackson’s visual effects studio, Weta Digital. It’s a stunning testament to artistic collaboration, but a terrifying glimpse into Hollywood’s reliance on this. As the documentary pointed out, the highest grossing films of 2016 are also the ones with huge VFX teams. Superhero movies pushing the boat out has led to drawing audiences in with cooler and cooler explosions.

Last week I talked about how visual effects are done best when the audience doesn't notice there’s any tricks going on. Unfortunately, it seems as though the studios don’t notice the artists either. If you’d like to watch the full documentary you can catch it for free right here, accompanied with a smashing write up.

[via The Sacramento Bee]

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Patrick Hall's picture

Everyone should click on the "Hollywood's greatest trick" link above and watch the 25 min Documentary. It's pretty eye opening

Rui Bandeira's picture

we have or will have the same prob in photo industry...

Tihomir Lazarov's picture

The problem is working with the big ones who can dictate the rules. As long as you stay small and work in a highly competitive market, you can have contracts where for every step outside the agreed terms related to the final product, there is an extra fee charged.

Spy Black's picture

A lot of this stuff is done in India now. If I'm not mistaken, an Indian VFX house bought Digital Domain. If you think the artists in the US have it bad, think of what a VFX worker ant in India gets.