STRENGTHS: Because powerful technologies for
animation, VFX and compositing are now so accessible, a director can control
the visual effects production process right at the keyboard level, rather than
having to delegate a variety of tasks, making he or she a much bigger part of
the process. With so many directors coming to the table with a design
background, the power to model, animate and light key scenes is a luxury they
can now afford.
The industry, I feel, is suffering from a lack of understanding about how
complex and time consuming VFX are.
Computer animation and VFX are very strict disciplines, and a lot of
fine talent goes into what we see onscreen. I was recently talking with someone
about The Incredibles. I mentioned that a lot
of people don't understand how much work went into that film, to which this
person said, "That's because you guys make it look so easy." To me, that's
indicative of a lack of understanding that pervades the animation and visual FX
issue is that there is a lack of multi-disciplined animation talent.
Traditionally, many animation people pigeonhole themselves into thinking they
should do one thing really well, but the market has changed. You need to be
able to do several things really well. There is a fundamental under use of the
design process, which is a major weakness in today's pool of emerging talent.
"Podcasting" and "Mobile Content" are great buzz words, but regardless of
technologies or platforms, the opportunities will always exist where you make
them. Using the analogy of a restaurant, smaller companies like S4 can't offer
up a full banquet, but are more like an exclusive yet affordable eatery that
caters to a small yet loyal clientele that enjoys the personal touch.
The biggest threat of all comes not only from deficiencies in quality visual
effects or even outsourcing and cheaper production, but from laziness in
storytelling and character development. In the next five years, we will see
technological breakthroughs that will render even the most astonishing
tent-pole releases of 2006, allowing even more quality designers to jump on the
bandwagon. Unfortunately, these
great artisans will be pushed to mediocrity through tightening budgets, lack of
creative leadership and stories that don't inspire, but take from the creative
juices that drive successful animated/VFX films. What will truly drive the
visual effects industry are compelling stories and characters that intrigue we,
2007: VFX will permeate into other areas of the mainstream media, like mobile
phones, podcasts, video games, etc., in addition to motion pictures and