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Monday, May 20, 2013

Visual Effects Working Conditions Survey

Visual Effects Working Conditions Survey

[Update:  What follows is the details of the survey and then final summery at the end.  I'm adding some of summary results here for those who simply skim.

In New Zealand 38% of the workers had worked 100hrs a week during their heavy crunch time.
Keep in mind a regular work week for most countries is 40 hours. At 100 hours that's 2-1/2 times the number of hours per week as a regular person has to put in. That's over 14 hrs a day even if you work 7 day weeks. Equivalent to 20 hrs day if it were a 5 day work week. Also keep in mind most countries and fair trade organizations have a cap of 60hrs a week total.  Anyone putting in 100hrs in a week has exceeded the limit in most countries by a full weeks worth of labor on top of the maximum.

This also wasn't simply for 1 week for most of those working. In New Zealand 13% of the workers put in long weeks for over 10 weeks. 19% put in 8 weeks of heavy overtime. 10 weeks is 2-1/2 months or likely 70+ days non-stop without a day off.

While New Zealand was the highest, most countries far exceed regular labor limits. Details in the survey and end summary.

Globally 18% of visual effects workers had put in at least one 24+ hr day in the last 2 years. Almost 1 out of every 5 visual effects workers had not stopped to sleep during a 24 hour period. In one day these people put in over 1/2 of what most people take 5 days to do.]
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I conducted a simple survey of visual effects professionals and animators over the course of 2 weeks via twitter, Facebook and this blog and conducted on survey monkey. This is not a scientific survey, it's just a rough gauge of some of the issues for visual effects professionals around the world. Because no one monitors the visual effects industry there is a lack of any real data regarding companies and workers. The Croner survey is done for animation and visual effects companies so they know what the salary range is for different positions but otherwise wide spread information is severely lacking.

I posted this survey in the hopes of getting a sense for any consensus on some of the various issues visual effects professionals have to deal with. What are the priorities of vfx professionals? We talk about hours and other problems but how much of an issue are they? Do they vary by location?

I focused on issues that the visual effects companies have some control over and that are measurable. I've avoided asking about things such as respect or good projects. While important issues for individuals these are not something easily measured or controlled by the visual effects companies.

This data will be submitted and used by the VES Strategic Committee and I'm making it available here for reference.

Basics
In the end 663 people from around the world filled out the survey.
31 countries were represented.

Number of surveys done in the following countries:
  • USA             303
  • Canada         113
  • UK                 87
  • India               31
  • France            17
  • Australia         16
  • New Zealand   16
  • Germany          8
  • Singapore         5
  • Mexico             5
  • Spain                5

The other countries had less than 5 people each.
China had 3 people report and I have included that in some of the following charts just to have a data point.
27 people did not provide location information so won't be used for the location info section.

Caution
663 people responding to the survey isn't bad but with thousands of people in the industry (unknown exactly how many are in any one region, let alone the world), the sample is only a rough sample and can only represent those that took the survey. The small number of sampling in some countries can greatly skew the results so don't extrapolate these into representing a majority of cases.

I've tried to double check the calculations but if you see something amiss go ahead and flag it.

Results
The next several charts are what the survey web site provided. After the charts are corresponding tables of the actual values. Note the values are averages. These are for all the survey results (global).

I ran numbers in Excel to get Median values, which I think are much more useful, as well as breakdown by country. These are posted at the end.

The first two questions have values of 1 to 5 in terms of no importance to highest for each topic.
Priority of 5 meant that it was a requirement or a big concern.
Company meets needs, a 5 indicated the company was doing very well at meeting the needs.

It was interesting that every topic received some 5's and some 1's, so something that was critical to some people was of very little concern to others. And that's why the averages shown in the first batch of data points is not as interesting as the median values that are listed later.























Global Medians

The following data was sorted in Excel and shows Median values in addition to Averages.

Priorities is the importance of what professionals placed on each issue.
Below is the global priority list sorted.






Country breakdowns

Here is the original list showing the comparison of different country responses.
Yellow represents values below the Global values.
Blue represents values above the Global values.




Companies shows how well the companies are dealing with the specific issues from the worker's perspective.

Yellow represents values below the Global values.
Blue represents values above the Global values.




Topics by country

Global includes all survey results, even if no location provided. All values in nearest %
Small sample sizes provide questionable results for many countries.










Summary of Results
I've just completed organizing the numbers so haven't analyzed them in detail. I will do a follow up post with comments from those taking the survey. [Comments from the survey are now up ] There are certainly some differences between locations. Some of the attitudes about priorities are likely to be relative to the perspective at that particular location.

Compensation for OT, minimizing OT, and avoiding moving are the top in most countries.
Low on the list is credit placement. Doesn't mean it's not an issue but other more pressing matters.

And to be clear anything marked as compensation pertains to being paid for Overtime when it is worked. 'Compensation for all hours worked' is just what it says. This is not to imply higher wages but simply being paid for work done.

Almost 39% receive no OverTime compensation on a global average.
Almost 36% don't know the overtime laws in their location.
14.46% get regular pay(or comp time) instead of overtime pay.

Those who had to put in 24hrs or more in a continuous day were 2nd only to those who had put in 14hrs a day.

50hr work week is most standard 'normal' week and 70hr more likely heavy week.

[Updated 6/18/2013 Added a couple more paragraphs because I want to make sure the numbers sink in and don't just appear as numbers on a chart.

In New Zealand 38% of the workers had worked 100hrs a week during their heavy crunch time.
Keep in mind a regular work week for most countries is 40 hours. At 100 hours that's 2-1/2 times the number of hours per week as a regular person has to put in. That's over 14 hrs a day even if you work 7 day weeks. Equivalent to 20 hrs day if it were a 5 day work week. Also keep in mind most countries and fair trade organizations have a cap of 60hrs a week total.  Anyone putting in 100hrs in a week has exceeded the limit in most countries by a full weeks worth of labor on top of the maximum.

This also wasn't simply for 1 week for most of those working. In New Zealand 13% of the workers put in long weeks for over 10 weeks. 19% put in 8 weeks of heavy overtime. 10 weeks is 2-1/2 months or likely 70+ days non-stop without a day off.

Globally 18% of visual effects workers had put in at least one 24+ hr day in the last 2 years. Almost 1 out of every 5 visual effects workers had not stopped to sleep during a 24 hour period. In one day these people put in over 1/2 of what most people take 5 days to do.

Those who don't work in visual effects tend to have a hard time to grasp this concept. ]

The bottom line is visual effects professionals are putting in a lot of hours, frequently beyond limits set by both countries and some industries. And many of the hours are not compensated so a majority of these workers are being exploited unless their pay is correctly calculated to cover heavy overtime.

[Update 6-20-2013 Overtime links
Overtime post
Why Crunch Mode Doesn't Work: 6 Lessons

The death march: the problem of crunch time in game development

More Productivity Myths, Debunked by Science (and Common Sense)
Myth #1: More Hours Equals More Work  ]

Summary
First, thank you to everyone who took the survey.

Hopefully this will shed some light on issues for visual effects workers around the world and help to show similarities and disparities between areas.

There have been other surveys done in the last year by VFX Solidarity, the UK VFX group and others. I'll try to post links to those here.

Updated 5/22/2013 BECTU UK survey results

This information could at least be the start of research for both guilds and trade association. More surveys will be likely coming from a number of groups including the Visual Effects Society.

I'm still pushing for workers to come up with a Code of Conduct addressing these issues.
More info in these posts:
VFX Professionals United
Global VFX Workers

If you wish to have a voice in the future of visual effects you will have to speak up and make yourself heard. Participate in surveys, post comments, post you own blog, get involved with forums, etc.

If you have other issues or solutions please go ahead and post them in the comments. Last week someone wrote a comment to a post I had, that I did not cover issues and solutions in non-LA areas. For the same effort they could have listed their specific issues and solutions in the comments.

And again, very little I've posted has been LA specific. See VFX World Wide PI talk which lists issues and solutions. With the exception of health care, ALL of the issues were world wide. Subsidies have a huge influence, good or bad, no matter where you work. We are not working locally for local markets. The visual effects industry is global with work being done around the world and with many professionals having to move around the world. Any change in any area will affect you.

Massive Overtime and unpaid work hours are problems all around the world. See the survey results.

The solutions included a global trade association and guilds among other things. For those who think guilds are LA centric, many guilds cover the entire US. Also note that most countries of the world have guilds and many have specific film related guilds, including Canada and the UK among others.  And yet there is an amazing amount of ignorance or denial regarding all of these things. See Visual Effects Guilds to learn more about guilds.

For those who wish to see improvements to this industry, have courage to stand up and be heard. It's in your hands. The time for finger pointing or waiting for someone else to solve all the problems is over.

If you have thoughts or insights based on the survey results please leave them in the comments below. If you have suggestions for future survey questions you think are important go ahead and leave those in the comments section as well.

Survey comments are covered in the Survey Comments Post

8 comments:

  1. thanks Scott for the precious work

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  2. thanks Scott for the invaluable works you are doing.

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  3. Thanks for all that excellent data. I've never seen it laid out like that before.

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  4. AnonymousMay 21, 2013

    get out of Visual FX while you still can.

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  5. Eric KittlerMay 22, 2013

    Thanks Scott. I found the survey very informative and interesting. keep up the good work.

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  6. Thanks Scott, as both a visual effects artist, and now a partner owner in a vfx facility, I find your contributions and willingness to take real action extremely valuable. This survey was very interesting, it confirms things I knew as an artist, but also highlights quantitatively the degree to which certain issues exist and where. The one extremely important (IMHO) data point that I feel is missing is the age of respondent category and how that correlates to the various other values. Keep up the great work, I'm sure there's been a TON more people that have read your survay than have responded!

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  7. Thanks Eric.

    Age data point - The only issue I can see that affecting is possibly less reluctance to move (many young, single people much more willing and able to move) and possibly pension (because it's in the future). Keep in mind while it sounds great to be in a new location, if you're putting in a lot of time in a cubicle, it may not really mean much if you can't enjoy the location.

    Not sure of the impact to the other issues. Do younger people not want to be paid overtime? Have some type of health care? Get vacations or sick coverage?

    They are likely to be more open to working more OT simply because they want to earn a lot of money now but likewise they give up having much social interaction, concerts, sports, etc I've certainly had to cancel many plans to attend concerts and other activities and cancel vacations because of work obligations. Hard to date when you're putting in 80 hrs a week. Most people outside the business don't understand the concept of putting in a lot of hours, including girlfriends/boyfriends.

    Getting credits and getting demo material even more important for the younger artists.

    Everything on the list is important even if some people don't feel it is at the moment. If you're in perfect health you may not see the need for health care or other coverage but the sad fact is everyone ages.

    And for anything the younger workers want in the future they will have make a stand for it now since it will take time. They won't be able to ignore it and then suddenly request it 10 years from now. Because there will be more younger people trying to get in and be in the exact same position in the future.

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  8. AnonymousJune 04, 2013

    Thanks a lot for this. It's much appreciated. We suspected something was wrong but now it makes it obvious.

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