SWOT 2016: Stiller Studios' Patrik Forsberg talks VFX trends
Patrik Forsberg
Issue: December 1, 2015

SWOT 2016: Stiller Studios' Patrik Forsberg talks VFX trends

Patrik Forsberg is a Creative Director at Stiller Studios (http://stillerstudios.com) in Lidingo, Sweden. Stiller Studios focuses on intricate motion control work, and has a vision: produce precise motion control work that rivals what can be achieved in Hollywood blockbusters, at a fraction of the cost. They are set up to create live action on CGI with a moving camera and live preview. To capture these shots against almost any background—from 3D scenes to pre-shot stills and moving plates — Stiller Studios uses a range of equipment, proprietary tools, and off-the-shelf products, including the video apps in Adobe Creative Cloud.   

STRENGTHS:  “Right now the industry is seeing a big move back toward what was more popular in the ‘70s, such as miniatures. 3D, while still very important, is less impressive now since it has become something anyone can achieve. In order to take filmmaking to the next level, many studios are shifting toward smaller, precise pieces of craftsmanship rather than large-scale 3D production work. I’ve also seen that live action, produced as elements and assets and incorporated in more CG-intense productions, is really booming right now. 

“Additionally, more directors and producers are emerging from the VFX community, and are using their savvy experience in VFX to make smarter decisions throughout the production process. A couple of years ago, many directors didn’t consider the VFX community or available tools as key to their workflow. So these directors and producers who have grown up with utilizing VFX tools in their daily work are helping democratize filmmaking, which is really good for the industry overall.”

WEAKNESSES:  “I think one weakness in our industry is that the power of VFX tools has made extraordinary effects seem more commonplace. As technology makes workflows cheaper or easier, instead of using those tools to tell the best possible story for the audience in new ways, everything begins to look the same to the audience and doesn’t appeal as much. The original Star Wars was a technical breakthrough, but once those technical achievements became a commodity, they lose their ‘wow factor.’”

OPPORTUNITIES:  “We are consuming films, movies and videos more than ever – on very diversified platforms, and there’s a new opportunity to reach our audiences on multiple platforms. Specific to the film industry, it appears to be going in two directions: the major blockbusters (often the most technology-driven films) and indie films (which I think are much more about storytelling). However, the common thread is the audience. Today, there is a whole new generation growing up in a streaming culture.” 

THREATS:  “I think one threat is that financing movies is getting more complex and challenging. For the last 30 years or so in Europe, the film industry has been financed by advertising, with TV channels financing part of a movie and breaking it up with commercial breaks. With streaming that is happening less, so it’s a big change on where the money comes from and who we have to sell to. At the same time, TV series are getting a lot more resources now, so there is a lot of opportunity to be had. Right now, I believe more quality work is being doing on TV series than on middle-of-the-road movies.” 

OUTLOOK FOR 2016:  “Along with increased use of miniatures and precise models, especially when combined with newer technological advancements, I expect to see more augmented reality and virtual reality in 2016 as 3D becomes more commonplace and expected. For us, it’s no longer only about VFX and CGI work, but also filmmakers who want a very particular background and to make it look like we are there. I expect these requests will continue, especially as these technologies and workflows that were previously only available for big budget films (due to the high price tag) are now accessible on smaller, mid-size to indie budget films. 

“At Stiller we are meeting these demands by operating on a ‘fix it in pre’ mindset and expect to follow that mantra for years to come. On feature films, we’re saving 70 percent of the manpower costs in post production by having systems that deliver everything as a pre-comp with Adobe After Effects CC and Premiere Pro CC. Instead of getting one or two shots a day, which is typical with this type of work, we can accomplish the 15 or 16 shots a day that you would normally only get on feature films or commercials. Everything is aligned and setup, and artists just go straight in and get to work.”