The VFX War: Part 1 — The iPhone Analogy

This entry is part 1 of 5 in the series The VFX War

 A Quality Product Should Be Its Own Reward

It is hard to realize that the iPhone is not even a decade old. For the most part it works so well, that it fades into the background of our daily lives — quietly doing its job. Now remove it from our lives, and see what effect that has, and our reliance on the technology will be evident.

No one in their right mind would even try (apologies to Samsung).

Modern visual effects using computer generated imagery are in the same category as the iPhone. They are everywhere, and no one can imagine living without them, but they quietly do their job. VFX are not just a tool to create neat spaceships, or alien hordes, but one which can generate crowds of onlookers, historical buildings, thick traffic, natural disasters, or alter an actors age at an affordable cost — when deftly wielded by talented artists. They are ubiquitous. But much like the iPhone relies on existing telephone technology to reach out to the world, so do the practitioners of digital visual effects rely on the methods and structure developed before them in the practical world. In concert with each other, practical and digital visual effects create worlds of our imagination — fueling a multi-billion dollar industry.

The visual effects we love are in trouble. Production companies, as one would expect, are chasing government subsidies around the world to drive down costs and maximize profits for their shareholders. That is what they are supposed to do, but subsidies end. Work leaves the area, and migrates to the next zone with the best kickback, leaving visual effects ghost towns in their wake. Areas that would be too expensive to produce a show under normal circumstances empty of cash, leaving artists stranded in economies their work can no longer support. This forces thousands of talented artists to leave their careers, and potentially endanger the whole industry.

It should not be up to any one person or government to steal industries from other areas for short term benefit with taxpayer money, and little long-term profit, when a longer sustained industry that grows up naturally (from the demand of its clients and resources) will better fuel the entertainment of the world, and the artists who create it. Los Angeles, London, Vancouver, Mumbai — who knows where the final resting place is or should be? It should be the result of the obvious choice.

If the iPhone disappears, we will notice, but there will always be another smart phone, they are a commodity. If that situation does happen, one hopes it is because something did not go as planned and people moved on, not because a company with a great product went head-to-head with a government bent on destroying it for its own benefit. Subsidies are shortsighted, and are stressing the VFX industry — constantly running around in circles to stay afloat. Companies rise and fall faster than the temperature, and the reliable product is beginning to suffer. This is an act of volition, impacting lives globally, and the question is how long will it go on before we notice an artistic industry has died, replaced with a commodity?



Series NavigationThe VFX War: Part 2 — Fish In A Barrel >>

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