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Tremors in the VFX industry

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I agree. This vendor model sucks. Not to hi-jack this thread, but what is a better model that would actually work in this field? I know there are a variety of opinions on this, but what do you guys think it would take to make this all sustainable?

 

Probably the only model that really works is to only do what you're getting paid for. That means if the budget allows for only one week of work, the client doesn't get a photorealistic 3d tiger but rather the Getty version, an animated still or some fancy typo animation saying: “tiger”. If he pays for one month, he might be getting a cool looking inflatable plastic tiger and if he pays me for one year i might finally consider offering him the “life of Pi” version.

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I remember not too long ago there was this attitude that if you were in Denver or any place not in LA/NY that you couldn't possibly be any good. I remember hearing jaded chuckles regarding the out of state mom-and-pops. Yet some of those mom and pops are blowing away or competing evenly with many of the once superior LA companies.

 

I'm actually excited for shops like yours. Basically blowing the lid off that bogus theory that only an LA based shop can make a film or video of creative value. :)

 

That reminds me of the jaded chuckles from some only a few short years ago when I said I was using Cinema 4D (apparently not professional grade software) on a PC (apparently it's IMPOSSIBLE to be creative on a PC). Funny how it's now becoming the standard motion graphics setup.

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Oh cool just got a higher budget. Whoops, looks like there's 7 times the manload.

 

Manload™

 

So lets say we all tell the client he or she will have to pay overages and that we won't get out of bed for less than a certain amount.

 

They hang up the phone. And they call someone cheaper. Then they call back and tell you the job "went away".

 

It's as simple as that. With social media making it easier than ever before to connect to global talent that can start immediately. Skype and screensharing works for me when I work remotely. We have a few phone calls, a skype or two, and I send them examples within 1-3 days.

 

Good luck improving that model. You can't undo global competition.

Edited by BoArlander

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can I invest in Manload™?

 

I like to hear about burgeoning industry outside the standard NY/LA markets because I get sick of living the life in NYC and would love to get my kids a proper lawn without commuting an hour still.

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can I invest in Manload™?

 

I like to hear about burgeoning industry outside the standard NY/LA markets because I get sick of living the life in NYC and would love to get my kids a proper lawn without commuting an hour still.

 

You and me both. I am excited about the day where we will be able to provide for our families and produce the same quality and quantity of work without being shackled to the big cities.

 

Speaking of big cities see my other thread Microdot. I'd love to grab a coffee while Im in NY.

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The Mill said they are exiting film and television to go full bore in commercials. I wish them luck in that competitive over-saturated market.

 

Regarding Digital Domain. Here's the definition of mothership. Does this seem ironic to you that they named it mothership? See below:

 

 

Definition:

A mothership is a vehicle that serves or carries one or more smaller vehicles. The mother ship may also recover the smaller craft, or may go its own way after releasing it.

Edited by BoArlander

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The earth is shaking for vfx. The top shops are quoted in this article.

 

http://www.televisual.com/news-detail/Mill-TV-to-close-following-vfx-downturn_nid-2660.html

 

 

 

From Framestore: “We have seven pictures booked over the next 15 months in New York, London and Montreal, but even when supply of VFX work comes back, the demand is going to remain ‘lumpy’ – we have to do more work over a shorter period of time which means taking on more staff for shorter periods. I don’t’ feel that situation is going to go away.”

 

From the Mill: http://www.televisual.com/news-detail/Mill-TV-to-close-following-vfx-downturn_nid-2660.html

 

“We have reluctantly decided that this is a business we do not want to play in any more, although I am immensely proud of what we have achieved.”

 

Interviewer: “The facility will now focus primarily on its commercials business.”

Edited by BoArlander

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Sorry to be the reaper. I'll post something positive soon.

 

:P

 

Imageworks LA Layoffs

Layoffs are nothing new to the industry but VFX Solidarity broke news of a number of layoffs at Sony Pictures Imageworks. What makes this round particularly notable is that this was mostly long-term supervisory and senior talent. According to VFX pro Thad Beier:

Reports of extensive layoffs at Sony Culver City today. I have heard that they have been “strongly encouraging” everybody to move to Vancouver…

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Breaking News today. Interesting. Tippett Studios VFX House Lays Off 40 Percent of Workforce

Berkeley-based VFX company Tippett Studios has laid off 40 percent of its workforce today, the company's CEO and president Jules Roman confirms to The Hollywood Reporter, with the possibility of more layoffs coming.

 

Over 50 visual effects designers were let go, leaving a staff of 100 full-timers still working at the studio, whose recent work is on display in blockbuster films like Ted andThe Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn.

"We're hibernating, figuring out a way to reinvent and scale down because there's a lag in work obviously, and there's such upheaval in the visual effects industry, period. We're not sure where it's all going, but we think it's probably going north," Roman says, referring to recent losses to Canada-based effects houses, which lure Hollywood studios with enticing tax credits.

Edited by BoArlander

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You just love breaking bad news to people here, don't you? :P

 

But seriously.... who are you? Your (account's) whole purpose has been to preach doomsday gossip. What is your angle here? What is your stance, exactly? I am getting mixed signals.

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You just love breaking bad news to people here, don't you? :P

 

But seriously.... who are you? Your (account's) whole purpose has been to preach doomsday gossip. What is your angle here? What is your stance, exactly? I am getting mixed signals.

 

 

+1

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I don't see BoArlander as poo pooing on everything. He's just letting the rest of us know what's going on in this industry. "Business knowledge about trends is key".

I mean, I can equally say that those that are downplaying the vfx/mograph link and that learning new skills to "adapt" will save you, as being blowhard ignoramuses.

 

It just so happens that the news going around is bad, unfortunately.

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Saying to "adapt" is not really being a blowhard and I would think certainly not ignorant. I would be interested to see how many people on here are doing the exact same job/skills as they did 10 years ago, 5 or even 3 for that matter. This field is not one in which you work hard at a job and retire. You bust you ass and work hard and learn and work with people and be a good person to work with. This keeps you up to date on the technical side of what you need to perform your creative tasks and keep your clients happy and get paid. And as technology changes (end viewer technology, not processor and computers or software) markets evolve and the demand changes for what clients need, our jobs change with them. So really its a little of both, things are not the best for some people and some areas and are great in others.... and adapting and evolving as what your knowledge, focus and abilities are will never hurt your longevity or wallet in the end.

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I think when we're speaking of adapting, we're talking about 2 different things. I think we can all agree that in this field (mograph) you're constantly doing different things and only learning and "adapting" keeps you moving forward. But as an industry, how are we supposed to adapt to the changing times of the way we do business? Was Rhythm and Hues lack of "adaptation" their downfall? What could they have done to not go out of business? And.. in my opinion, mograph is very similar to VFX and I believe it will have eventually suffer the same fate.

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Yeah we most likely are. I dont know what their downfall was or why but I do think that we need to use this as a lesson.... to what that will actually help us or if it will prevent anything, I am not sure but seems like a good idea.

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This is just speculation:

 

But i cant see how such large companies could possibly adapt fast enough to the current changes. Even smaller companies ive worked with still have absolutely ouotdated workflows sometimes. And a company that big? Im sure they had A LOT of unnecessary overhead.

 

My personal guess is Boarland here is trying really hard to organize a union. While a noble cause. this approach seems very 1960's. and i doubt it will actually gain traction. thankfully this industry requires a certain level of cognitive skills which will most likely prevent such an occurrence.

 

also, is it just me or do all the people who are fear mongering seem to be anonymous? here is an idea: stop being anonymous, and then when shit hits the fan at your current place of work, you'll be able to find other work significantly easier. :)

 

On the topic of adapting: being nicer and less abrasive may help. I really can't imagine how people work with you if your attitudes and behavior is similar in person...

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To me this is the crux of the issue. We all adapt our skill-set everyday, but we are not for the most part I think, adapting our business model which is leading to so many problems.

 

edrhine I respect a lot of the points you made, and like you I have a small shop with just a few people that is in many ways benefiting from some of the problems with the larger places. I know we have clients that never would have considered working with a small outfit like ours a few years back and now are willing to take the plunge.

 

I never want my business to become a big bloated studio, I don't want the fancy furniture and sushi lunches for clients. I always want clients to know the dollars they spend with us end up on screen. But I do want to grow to a point where we have dedicated production coordinators, maybe a full-time office manger/IT person, etc. so I'm not running around like a maniac doing 5 different jobs.

 

I don't know what other people's profit margins are like but for me anyways you just need to add few more salaries and quickly it becomes a lot more of an issue when a project is pushed by a month or client starts demanding a lot of extra changes on a flat bid.

 

To say this is not a job you can retire from is valid, hell it's true, but is there anything wrong with aspiring to that. Why can't we work towards getting there. Can we not adapt our industry into being one where there are better working conditions and career longevity?

 

It's really a bummer to see what this thread is turning into. Whether you think the problem is dire or just growing pains of a young industry the stuff that's going on is giving us all a good platform to discuss how to make our industry better be a shame not to use it.

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Good luck improving that model. You can't undo global competition.

 

I don't want to sound rude - but with that attitude you should probably think about changing your job. And what is it that you want anyway? You are constantly bitching about the industry going down but it doesn't really sound like you're trying to improve your situation.

I've been working in motion design for 15 years now and the one thing i learned, is that it sure is possible to “educate” clients. It may take some patience and a lot of communication but it works.

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anothername ----- some freakin excellent points in there. I think the problem is the lack of adaption to the business model // client demands // budgetary constraints. This should absolutely be an industry that you can comfortably retire from, I think that it will be more on us as business owners, employees, and freelancers to make that happen for ourselves though. This seems to be a trend in general employment to me though, more that a thing with our industry... and that is where the economic boom days of great bennies are just not there and it will be more up to the individual to rely on saving for retirement (while making generally great money) rather than staying employed somewhere that builds that up for you over time.

 

 

I never want my business to become a big bloated studio, I don't want the fancy furniture and sushi lunches for clients. I always want clients to know the dollars they spend with us end up on screen. But I do want to grow to a point where we have dedicated production coordinators, maybe a full-time office manger/IT person, etc. so I'm not running around like a maniac doing 5 different jobs.

 

I don't know what other people's profit margins are like but for me anyways you just need to add few more salaries and quickly it becomes a lot more of an issue when a project is pushed by a month or client starts demanding a lot of extra changes on a flat bid.

I feel you here for sure. We are lucky enough to be on retainer with some major clients that helps smooth things out for some growing pains, but I know that in the in next coming years we are going to have to be working hard to maintain appropriate growth to make those full-time verses contracting decisions (which will hopefully pan out right).

 

Profit margins are always a tough thing as we try to keep them as high as possible but sometimes work is for the margin and sometimes its for the work and publicity.

 

I really do think this is the pains of a growing industry. Not that we dont have a lot in common with the VFX industry as the tools, concepts/execution and content are damn close, but we also (or at least I think at this point) are in a different realm of budgets, expectations and viewers. VFX has been and is huge in film and commercial content, and what I have seen in my experience is that film timelines are shrinking and commercial budgets and timeframes are as well. All that leads to massive operational changes to make better work, faster and cheaper. Is this good, probably not but I really dont know. I have seen mograph change for better and worse in my time though. For me, it is a great benefit as clients consider us as a vendor of the same possibility as some of the largest shops in LA and NYC not always for the top jobs, but for better ones than we have even been approached before.

 

As a business owner and someone passionate and caring about this industry, I would love to see this take some direction into how to manage this and prepare for the bountiful and sparse future times.

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I've been working in motion design for 15 years now and the one thing i learned, is that it sure is possible to “educate” clients. It may take some patience and a lot of communication but it works.

 

Totally agree I'm starting to learn this is really one of the most important things.

 

By default most clients start out wanting the most for the least it's the nature of business, but there are the clients that come back and you start to build up the bond of trust both ways and you start to work on budgeting and schedules that make sense for both of you, and they are willing to do that because when dealing with such an intangeable product trust is one of the most important things.

 

Building up a good base of these kinds of clients is key to staying sane and running a business.

 

 

 

 

As a business owner and someone passionate and caring about this industry, I would love to see this take some direction into how to manage this and prepare for the bountiful and sparse future times.

 

 

Cannot agree more. To me the biggest positive first step I am seeing is everyone dropping the macho bullshit of I'm a badder ass mographer than you cuz I can go with less sleep than you and everyone actually discussing business and client relations more openly.

 

And hopefully just reading these kinds of threads will make more of us think twice about negotiating better contracts, educating clients, doing this as a business and a career and not just a passion, standing up for ourselves and generally working towards making this a sustainable field.

 

Where I would love to see things going personally is with some kind of trade association for lack of a better term. Personally I run into people from other studios at festivals and stuff and we chat a bit but other than that there is no real organized way for us to get together and discuss things, discuss with government and other players how we would like to see things going.

 

Like I just mentioned totally agree with Levante's point about educating clients but I would love to see this become a bit more of a group effort rather than it just being up to individual freelancers or studios.

 

I guess at a certain point you gotta just start stuff yourself if you want to see things happen, but as such a miniscule player who doesn't really have a track record of running a successful business, who's still just hustlin trying to start something up kinda feel like I don't really have the cred to get something going even just in my town (also kinda tough when your regularly working 14 -16 hour days trying to get a small business going).

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Like I just mentioned totally agree with Levante's point about educating clients but I would love to see this become a bit more of a group effort rather than it just being up to individual freelancers or studios.

-anothername

 

 

how can you educate clients in as a group effort?

 

How can that possibly even exist as a thought? This is part of YOUR job. Building trust isn't something that you can force onto people.

 

See this is my problem with these anonymous posters. they just want other people to do work for them. They complain about all this unfairness and then say something like that.

 

Educating your clients and building trust is probably just as important if not more important than the rest of the stuff you do. No one else is going to do it for you. Its part of providing a service.

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Vozz jeez man, what's with the negativity, and personal attack.

 

Group education exists everywhere, have you ever seen a PSA against drunk driving? For sure we need to work as individuals on this but working together as groups is what got human society where we are.

 

I am talking about things like educating clients about best practices, what does good information for a bid look like? how is a good contract structured? what is good workflow/process for animation? In plenty of fields this work is done partially through group efforts, professional associations or something of the like. Not every teacher writes their own textbook from scratch, but they still have to do the teaching individually:)

 

You can see some example of how this is already working in some of the stuff the AIGA does (like their standard contract that's a great resource for all freelancers, or thier "No Spec Work" education campaign, what's wrong with wanting to do more stuff like that?) and the writers guild does a lot of good education work as weel for two examples I can think of easily. I beleive the video game industry does quiet a bit of this as well.

 

I had the chance to sit down with government reps as part of a group of animation producers and discuss how we would like to see things evolve (subsidies, training, marketing, etc.) why is that impossible for mograph? Or why is that such an idiotic idea?

 

As for the anonimmity thing, you don't have to agree with me, but if you read through all the posts I have made in this thread and most threads I post in you will see when I disagree with someone it's usually respectfully.

 

I don't use my anonimmity to sit around bashing people. I am offering my opinions in the spirit of an open and healthy debate so I can learn things from others people's point of view and maybe they can learn from mine, if you just want to call me an idiot or lazy, you can like I mentioned before I just thinks it's a real shame if that's what this discussion turns into.

 

Read the exchange I just had with edrhine above I learned something from that, I learned from that exchange and his point of view that's why I post here.

 

I am anonymous on this forum because it's a tiny industry and I may well work with or end up working with many of the people on this forum, including you Vozz. I know how stuff can escalate and people can talk shit when there is no face to face contact, I stay anonymous so when I work with people it's just about the work (also have to worry less about violating NDAs when posting and a slew of other things).

 

I just don't get it. Maybe in reading my posts the tone comes off not the way I intended but all I am trying to do is offer some constructive ideas, not saying they are THE answers or the only way to look at things, just respectfully offering my point of view.

 

As someone who is busting their ass to start a business working 14-16 hour days often 7 days a week, employing people in the field, and employing people not on flat day rates but paying them for 8 hour days, and actually paying for extra time worked after 8 hours. I meet with almost anyone looking to break into the industry who emails me looking for a portfolio critique and I have also organized some small local meet-up type events. So I find it pretty funny to be called lazy for wanting to look at the idea of a trade or professional association.

 

Of course I am anonymous so you have no way of knowing if any of this is true, and you know what I don't care.

 

When we meet in the "real world" not on a forum and work together you will know what I am about for real, and that's all that really matters.

 

P.S. Oh yeah and of course trust is an individual thing just meant working together on the education front.

Edited by anothername

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Ok maybe that was a bit harsh. and i tend to dump everyone without a portfolio link into one group.

 

So if you are who you say, please accept my apology's. But as you noticed i have no way of verifying this.

 

Standardized are a great idea in theory. But in reality, there are too many variables. Each job is different, each client is different. And more importantly enforcing them is even more difficult.

 

But after reading your thread the idea does make more sense. Not a union, but an association that can help with legal issues and stuff. ( i think it may already exist, remember seeing ads for it called "freelancers union").

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