Monday, December 13, 2010

VES Handbook for Kindle - Back soon

The Kindle version of the VES Handbook was up for a short time a month or two ago but it was discovered that the Table of Contents was missing (a critical feature).  Focal Press pulled it to fix the problem and I'm told they have submitted an updated version.  It's now up to the Amazon process when it will be re-posted. Hopefully soon.

[update 7-20-2011: Now available]

Friday, December 03, 2010

US Health Care

Health care:
In a recent posting one of the commenters  suggested that I was being a bit over the top regarding issue of health care.  As I noted there all the information I provided was based either on my direct experience with insurance companies or were covered in multiple news sources. Seems to me this was someone who wasn't following the news for the last year or two during the health care debates.

Wendell Potter, previously the chief spokesperson for insurance giant CIGNA, tried to stop the Michael Moore film 'Sicko' from being seen.  The insurance companies set up a phony PR company that sent out incorrect health care information that was never fact checked by journalist among other things. He himself has now turned a new leaf and has written a book about the realities of American Health Insurance companies.  Deadly Spin: An Insurance Company Insider Speaks Out on How Corporate PR is Killing Health Care and Deceiving Americans.

Here's an interesting interview where he says the health insurance was planning to push Michael Moore off a cliff.

For those interested here is some recent health care news:
A Republican was complaining his health care didn't start fast enough:

For those Republican's who said that government health care was socialist, they have been asked to give up their health care, which is government based. Oddly, they all seem to like government healthcare just fine.

I do find it baffling that those who can ill afford health care want to avoid any reduction in costs and in fact want to provide tax cuts for the richest Americans.

IA VFX Union note

I met with Jimmy Goodman of the IA last week.

They are planning to have a blog setup within the next 2 weeks to keep people informed.
This would be one vfx union that covers the U.S. and they are continuing to meet with small groups of those interested.  [Note that the union cards they pass out do not have to have your social security number filled in.]  They'll progress to larger groups.
Their hope of course is to work with both the vfx studios and the major studios to get them aboard.  It will require a number of vfx studios and their employees to sign on to make it happen.

The IA feels they're a better fit for VFX artists given that they cover the majority of artists and crafts people on a stage or set - camera guild, art directors, sound, wardrobe, etc.

Jimmy said they were well aware of the concerns people have about runaway production related to vfx and they will have to work with both the members and the vfx companies to strike a balance that makes sense in terms of the benefits.  Most of the better/larger places already have benefits so this shouldn't be large gap, if any.  If you work at a place that offers no benefits or forces employees to file as contractors then it will have an impact on them.  If that's your situation you should probably consider working elsewhere anyway.

I suggested they needed to have a clear plan that they can articulate if they want to succeed at this and ideally post that information to the web so it could be reviewed by those unable to make a meeting.

If you want information directly: vfx at 

IBEW VFX Union meeting

IBEW Announcement
Attention all Visual Effects Artists, Practitioners, Aficionados, & Mavens:

IBEW Local 40 will be hosting its’ 4th Informational Meeting for those working in the Motion Picture FX Industry.
We will be meeting again at the American Legion Post located @ 5309 S. Sepulveda Blvd. Culver City, CA 90230
Sunday December 12th  1pm. has been selected to accommodate most Brothers’ & Sisters’ work and Holiday schedules.
Once again representatives from both the IBEW and Local 40 will be there to answer all of your questions and provide additional information on why the IBEW is …the Right Choice!
Everyone who has already signed cards and all the Brothers & Sisters who have attended past meetings are strongly encouraged to bring along as many co-workers that can fit into your cars.

You can now check out IBEW Local 40 on YouTube

In Solidarity Forever,

Dave Grabowski
IBEW Local 40
Business & Membership Development
dave at
818-762-4239 ext.223

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Film incentives

Here are a couple of references to those interested in film incentives.  I included these in response to a comment but thought I should also make it full post.

Report on the impact of incentive programs elsewhere and what that has done to the Calif film industry.

"If the state had maintained its former level of dominance, a total of 36,000 jobs would have been saved. The wages and output associated with these jobs would have totaled $2.4 billion and $4.2 billion, respectively."\

(I think there are many more post-production jobs than this lists)

Full Report

EntertainmentPartners Web site with info on film incentives in different states and the world:

Sunday, November 14, 2010

VFX Union - What Next?

Reminder: I’m a member of the Board of Directors of the Visual Effects Society.  What I write here on the blog though is only coming from me as a fellow VFX artist and in no way should be misconstrued as from the VES.  I’m trying to provide information for vfx artists to be able to make their own decisions about these things.  Take anything you hear about unions (good, bad) and other things with a grain of salt, even from me. 

So now that that there seems to be some movement to get a VFX union started, from two different unions no less, what’s next?

As mentioned before there’s an amazing amount of stereotyping and ignorance regarding unions.  This isn’t the auto industry from 60 years ago.  I urge everyone to attend a union meeting if you have the opportunity so you can get direct answers without relying on what someone once told you that heard from his friend’s cousins…   The following are some notes and information to help clarify some things and to help provide fuel for questions for the union.

Both the IA and IBEW will need some VFX people involved on their end if they’re serious about this area to make sure they understand the issues and the job categories.  The IA certainly has an advantage since it has the Animation Guild 839 and Steve Kaplan along with the Vancouver VFX union 891.   The IA covers a wider range of people working in the motion picture industry including the camera union. The IBEW still doesn’t quite know what we do and the range of vfx jobs.

The unions need to be very clear and articulate about what advantages they offer to employees and to employers. This hasn’t always happened and certainly if they are to sway a large portion of vfx artists, it has to happen.

The unions need to present a real plan more than just telling people to fill out their union cards.

VFX artists will have to participate to make sure that if it happens, it’s done right.

The unions also have to give some consideration how this affects the major studios.  There was a time when studios had to subcontract work to union shops.  Obviously anything the unions could do to encourage the use of union companies by the studios would be an advantage.

Jurisdiction area – The unions need to be clear about what type of area they will cover. Is it just L.A? Is it all of the U.S?  Even though it’s unlikely the union could cover people in other parts of the world it could provide a basis of agreement elsewhere.   Case in point is the Writers union (WGA).  Even if a writer sells a screenplay to non-union production company, they usually ask for their deal to be based on the WGA standard agreement.  This provides a clear agreement about rates and payment schedules.  The same thing could happen with vfx if there’s a union in place even if it’s only in L.A.

The cost to be in the union:
There is typically an inition fee to join the union.  Both the IA and IBEW have stated that for vfx people this be waved for this initial setup of the union.

There are dues to be paid quarterly or yearly.  The IBEW has stated that their dues are prorated to some extent if you work fewer hours.  The IA dues are the same regardless of the amount you work.

What are the advantages of a union to VFX artists?
(Here are a few.  I’m sure the lists can be extended)

1. Health and welfare that works across multiple companies.  The days of lifelong employment at one company are gone.  Most vfx positions are project based with work lasting a few months to several months being the norm.  Even if you are on staff somewhere, at some point you will probably move on to another company for any number of reasons.  Even if the next company has health insurance it will require starting over from scratch with a different program and probably a different insurance carrier.  You will likely have to work so many days before you’re covered.  Will it start up before your insurance from your previous employment lapses?  What if it takes 3 months to qualify and you’re only on the project 4 months?

A union health plan allows you to switch companies as projects come and go, and to keep the same health and retirement benefits.  Most people working in film, TV and commercials are project based and their work on a particular project might only be for a day.  That’s one of the reasons the unions exist.

Both the IATSE and the IBEW use the same motion picture health plan. That means the type of coverage and requirements for hours worked are the same.

Side note: I know those of you living in civilized countries that have health care find all of this puzzling.  Here in the U.S. almost all health care is profit based.  The hospitals have whole accounting departments to make sure everything is billed in its entirety.  There are multiple medical insurance companies that exist to make a profit. Their executives fly on private jets with gold plated silverware. The numbers of different plan options are staggering and byzantine.  How much money are you willing to risk being hit up for (deductable) versus how much you have to shell out every month in insurance fees?  If you need to go into the emergency room and spend a week in the hospital, especially if you need a day or two in intensive care, your bill will likely be over $50,000.

The insurance companies have people employed whose sole purpose is to go through claims and see if they can be denied for any reason.  If you failed to remember you had some issue 10 years ago when you filled out your latest forms, they could deny you coverage.  That insurance you had been paying? Gone.  The amount you owe the hospital or doctor? 100%

I had to purchase a prescription when I was in London on a project with no local health insurance.  The cost: $7.    The cost for the same medication in the US with insurance: $30.

People in their early 20’s may be able to get insurance for $200 a month but that rapidly climbs with each passing year. For private insurance it’s not unusual for those with existing conditions, families or middle aged people to have to pay $1500 to $2000 a month for insurance.  That can be $24,000 a year in just health insurance expenses. At least part of that may be deducible from your taxes but that’s still a huge amount, especially when the median pay in the US is approx.  $50,000 before taxes.

Health costs are rising approx. 20% every year currently.  One insurance company tried to increase fees 39% last year until the government stepped in and asked them to recheck their figures.  Oops, they made a mistake.  Now it’s only 20%.

Many employers offer health insurance of some type but the coverage is all over the map.  They aren’t required to provide coverage so it can be none.  Some companies keep many part time employees so they can avoid paying any coverage and related items that may be required by the government.

Bottom line is health coverage is a big deal.

The down sides to union health coverage: 
To initially qualify you need to have worked 600 hrs in 6 months.
After that you need to work 300 hrs every months to qualify.
(Some time next year that increases to 400 hrs every 6 months)
That means you could be in the union and paying dues and still not have insurance if you’re not working enough.

The good news is that you can bank your hours worked so your coverage could last much longer.

The union insurance isn’t immune to rising health care costs so just as with company health insurance it maybe reduced in part by higher deducibles, higher co-pays, etc.

2. Paid overtime.  Note that there are state laws already that dictate how and when overtime is to be paid but companies find various means to avoid it in some cases. Making many people ‘managers’ so they’re salary employees, changing employees to ‘contractors’, etc.  The union overtime rates are laid out in detail.

3. Job titles and credits.
One thing the union would have to do is set specific job titles and specific definitions of each job title.  This has been lacking in vfx. Most unions cover a small range of types of jobs.  In the case of vfx workers there will be a wide range of jobs and how it’s divided up will have to be worked out.  Vfx covers roto artist, physical modelers, cg modelers, lighters, compositors, animators, etc.

The union will be unlikely to be able to dictate that all vfx workers get screen credit but they should be able to make sure key or lead artists receive proper credit. They should also be able to make sure that if you’re working doing a particular job that you get paid for doing that job. That also means having ‘contractors’ and non-paid ‘interns’ working along side employees would fall under review and likely eliminated.

4. Paid vacation. 

5. United workers.  In the last couple of years there were two Montreal vfx companies that failed to pay their employees.  The owners just kept telling people they would be able to pay them soon.  A union offers a united front so if there’s a major issue with a company such as missed payroll, then they can bring pressure to the company that a single individual could not.

Now many of the better vfx companies already do many of these things but none of them can offer continuous health coverage.  And here’s the thing, even at the better, larger companies there are a number of gray areas and things that slip through the cracks.  I’ve seen issues with all of the above at various vfx companies over the years.  The other thing to realize is a company can change drastically.  People who love you in management may be replaced by people who don’t know you from Adam.  The company can be bought out. The company can make mistakes.  The company at this point holds all the power and you may find yourself  taken advantage through no fault of your own.  I’ve seen people with contracts with the company being laid off and the contract being ignored. Any legal battle by an individual against a company is a long and expensive route.

What are the advantages of unions to vfx companies?
 1. Health insurance costs may actually be lower.  Regular health insurance costs to a company are based in part on the number of employees.  The company may need someone on staff to help manage and deal with health insurance and pensions issues if there is any. The motion picture health coverage is funded in part by residuals from films, television and commercials so part of the coverage.  They also handle the management of the health plan.

2. Union people are qualified and at least have a base level to handle their job title.  In vfx currently anyone can call themselves anything whether they actually did that job or knew how to do it.  There are processes in place to make sure people are qualified for their position.

3. A union indicates a mature industry and might also encourage companies to move forward with a trade association.  The vfx industry has become very lopsided and the introduction of a union and trade associate would hopefully help balance out some of volitale shifts taking place.

Myths and other points
The unions dictate what your wages are so your salary could be less and they limit what you can make.

The unions stipulate a minimum rate for each category.  This is the lowest base rate the employer has to pay for someone to do this job at a union company. You may negotiate a higher rate and that’s commonly done in the other IA unions.

The unions are only for lazy people.

Just watch a camera assistant work on a live action shoot to dispel this myth. The slow and lazy are fired, just like any other job.

The union is all based on seniority

There’s no real seniority in the motion picture unions with the exception of what level you are.  (i.e. 2nd camera assistant, 1st camera asst, etc)  A question for the unions however is about the 'roster' for vfx. In other unions if you haven't worked for awhile (2-3 years) you're taken off the roster.  I had thought the IA got rid of this but it still exists.

If you don’t like a place then just change companies.

This statement makes a lot of assumptions.  Obviously if you don’t like a place you would switch to another company if you can.  But are there jobs available for you elsewhere?  If the other companies already have their full team of people required they won’t be hiring you even if you’re great at what you do.
What if there aren’t any vfx company’s nearby?  How far do you move?  Another state? Another country?

There is no need for unions for since vfx companies don’t make much money.

As already noted there are other reasons than salary to have unions.

The unions will cause what little vfx work here to leave.

People always seem to jump to the conclusion that unions will make everything more expensive.  Most vfx artists are already paid reasonable rates so it’s unlikely there will be much of a change to rates. If the company already offers health insurance it’s possible the union health plan may actually be less expensive.  Both the unions and the vfx companies will need to find a balance.

If you work at a company that doesn’t offer health insurance and that doesn’t pay you overtime, then yes, it will cost your company more.  If you don’t have these things already then you should calculate your real hourly rate.  If you live in LA and are making less than living wages then it’s not going to really matter if that project goes elsewhere.  It sounds like you need to consider changing companies anyway or possibly changing jobs.

All hiring has to be done through the union.

A union company would have to hire union people when available.
The IBEW actually has a hall that they receive requests for people from companies but as was discussed with them at one of the meetings this approach wouldn’t work with vfx.  The IA itself can provide a list of available union members in that category but they themselves state they don’t provide a hiring hall.

If you’re in the union you can’t work on at a non-union company.

Both the IA and the IBEW have stated that vfx artists can work at non-union companies. The time you work non-union of course will not be counted toward your health plan.

Being in a union means that I might have to go on strike.

A strike is typically the last thing anyone wants.  It’s almost impossible to make back what you lose during a strike.  One thing the strike does offer any union is a serious power threat to the companies they are negotiating with.
The IA contracts state that an arbitration would be required.  A strike at any union requires some type of majority vote by its members.  It’s not just up to the board of directors.
The writers and SAG are two other unions (not IA).  The writers went on strike because the majority of them thought that was the thing they had to do.  SAG threatened a strike and took months to finally come to terms with the producers.  Note that as union members it would be up to you to vote for the type of people you want to represent you.

Out sourcing.

Unions can’t stop outsourcing from happening.  With some countries and states offering incentives  worth 20-40+ % off, the studios will attempt to leverage that as much as they can.  The IA has unionized many areas in the U.S. so if a production moves to another state to shoot or do post production they’re still covered by the union.

Changing coverage or rates.

If the vfx company you work for suddenly decides to increase benefits or pay rates, be very concerned.  It‘s not unusual for a company to try to dissuade employees from going union and to do so they may offer an attractive package.  In many cases in the past these promises never came to fruition or were short lived.  They only existed long enough to prevent the union from forming.  There’s no restriction on the company to make sure they maintain their promises or benefits and rates so many take advantage of that.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

IA Visual Effects Union Announcement

fxguide has posted the official announcement of the IA regarding setting up a VFX union.

VES Handbook up for a Prose award

I've been notified the VES Handbook is up for a Prose award, which is nice recognition for all of those who worked on it.

Richard Kerrigan wrote a review on Animation World Network here.

Oddly on Amazon:
1. The Kindle version isn't listed any more.  I suspect this is because we (and buyers) flagged to Focal Press that the ebook was lacking a Table of Contents so they may want to fix it before selling more copies.

2. There are at least a couple of people selling it for $122 through Amazon.  Not sure why since the book is
still available as far as I know (Amazon lists it as in stock)  

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Reminder - VFX Union meeting Nov 7

From the IBEW

Attention All Visual Effects Practitioners in Southern California:

IBEW Local 40 will be holding its’ 3rd  Informational Meeting for those working in the Visual Effects portion of the Motion Picture Industry.
This historic meeting will be held on Sunday November 7th 1pm. at The American Legion Hall located @ 5309 S. Sepulveda Blvd. Culver City CA. 90230.
Representatives from both Local 40 and the IBEW will be there to answer questions and provide additional information on why the IBEW is …the right choice.
Everyone that has attended past meetings are encouraged to bring a co-worker with them to receive this relevant information.

In Solidarity,

Dave Grabowski
IBEW Local 40
Business & Membership Development Rep.


An now here's a video from IA 891 

Do You Like Fighting Robots?

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

VFX Union IA update

Just a reminder here I'm trying to provide information for VFX artists to make informed decisions.

As noted in an earlier post the IBEW is having a meeting for people interested in a VFX union to be held Nov. 7 In Culver City (LA area)

I recently spoke with the IA and will post more at the appropriate time.  

One of the issues many young people don't consider is the advantage of being able to move from company to company and still keep the same health care and the same retirement fund. 

Here's the thing: It's up to VFX Artists to make an informed decision whether it's of value to you.
A VFX Union can't start unless many artists are willing to sign on.  It's likely to take at least 6 months to a year, maybe longer, to complete the process.   

I urge people not to believe the myths and misrepresentations about unions and to attend one of the meetings if possible to hear directly and to ask questions.

Just as with voting - if you don't participate in making a decision then you can't complain about it afterwards.

UPDATE:  11-11-10
IA Announces intent to unionize VFX artists

Other info:


Animation Guild Blog
Recent post related to VFX Union
Recent post related to VFX Union covering the first IBEW meeting

Vancouver VFX Union
Vancouver VFX Union Blog
Overtime pay rates video by IA 831

VFXSoldier blog

VES Handbook of Visual Effects now available in Kindle

VES Handbook of Visual Effects now available in Kindle electronic form!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

VFX union. IBEW Meeting

From the IBEW

Attention All Visual Effects Practitioners in Southern California:
IBEW Local 40 will be holding its’ 3rd  Informational Meeting for those working in the Visual Effects portion of the Motion Picture Industry.
This historic meeting will be held on Sunday November 7th 1pm. at The American Legion Hall located @ 5309 S. Sepulveda Blvd. Culver City CA. 90230.
Representatives from both Local 40 and the IBEW will be there to answer questions and provide additional information on why the IBEW is …the right choice.
Everyone that has attended past meetings are encouraged to bring a co-worker with them to receive this relevant information.
In Solidarity,
Dave Grabowski
IBEW Local 40
Business & Membership Development Rep.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

VFX Union Info Meeting tonight

IBEW Local 40 Informational Meeting for Visual Effects Industry

It's in Burbank (LA, CA) tonight (Oct 16) at 6pm.

I don't know any of the details except the posting at fxguide which lists the specific time and place.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Tom Cruise and VFX

For those who haven't seen it there's posting on regarding vfx information.
My Effects Corner blog is listed along with a lot of various blogs, companies, schools, etc.
Worth checking out here.

Friday, October 08, 2010

Rotoscoping hair

I forgot that Focal Press (the publishers of the VES Handbook) asked me to write a short article for them a few months ago.  It's online at one of their sites.

Rotoscoping Hair Article  <- currently invalid link but leaving it for the moment.

[So it seems that Focal Press has dropped the ball and allowed their website to disappear so I'm posting it below]

Rotoscoping Hair

One issue that comes up when people start learning rotoscoping is how to rotoscope hair.

Simple haircut with a few loose strands:
Roto a head of hair just like you do any other shape on a person.  You want to capture the shape of the hair.  If there are a few loose strands of hair don’t worry if these get cutoff.  It’s unlikely the audience will notice as long as you follow the other key rotoscoping rule – make the animation smooth.  To make the animation smooth try to keep the number of key frames and number of spline points to a minimum.  Without a reference to the version before roto, the audience is unlikely to notice the roto unless it jumps around.

Wind blown loose hair:
You don’t roto this type of hair if at all possible. Trying to follow hundreds of hairs moving around and hand cutting them out is a losing task.  The hair will likely be a pixel or two wide with sections appearing and disappearing depending on the lighting and the background.

If it’s at a distance or fast moving you can roto for the shape of the haircut.  If there’s a full sequence of blowing or frizzy hair in close-ups then you should seriously consider the possibility of shooting green or blue screen.  If that’s not possible (or the footage is already shot) then you have a few alternatives.  In any case, roto the main head and hair.

1. For the strands of hair create a garbage matte that contains them and then try to pull a key off the hair or background.  This is by far the most common method of dealing with hair that has super fine detail or requires strands to show up. If you have blond hair over a dark background or dark hair over a light background try a lumikey (brightness key).  Whatever makes the hair standout against the background is what you want to leverage to form a keyed matte.  You may have to separate the hair with multiple mattes in case the lighting or the background changes radically during the shot or across the frame.

2. If pulling a matte is difficult or there are only some strands (enough to truly be noticed if they were clipped) then it’s possible to create a single spline for each hair.  For traditional roto you’re creating an enclosed shape with the spline to use as a matte.  With this technique you just have individual spleens literally following a single hair.  Once these are in they should be rendered as paint strokes in the alpha channel or whatever other method your composting software provides for turning the splines into straight mattes.  And yes, this takes time.

3. Same as above put paint in the single hair strand mattes using a tiny paintbrush tool in the alpha channel.

4. In some case companies roto the haircut and in order to replace the clipped hair they build a digital double of the actress/actor, match-a-mate (key frame digital double to match the live action images) the digital double, simulate the hair motion and then render the hair.  This can be reasonable if you already have a haired digital double and the hairstyle lends itself to hair simulation.

In all of these cases you don’t need to capture every single strand of hair.  You only need to approximate the feel of the hair enough for the scene so it works when cut with other shots and played back at full speed.  That may mean dozen hairs instead of the hundreds you see in the original.

[Update: I have a Rotoscoping Basics post that links to the various roto posts, covers some basic notes and provides a link to the fxGuide  article on roto that discusses the history of rotoscoping and some of the currently available tools. It also includes an interview with me talking about Commotion, which is the package I did the video demos with.]

Friday, September 24, 2010

VES business for film and VFX artists event

The Visual Effects Society is having an educational business event for artists.

1099 forms, payroll, insurance and other issues will be covered. Open to non members as well (for a fee)

Oct 5, 2010 in Los Angeles, CA

More details

fxguide did a write up and interview regarding this as a follow up to the event.
Read the article here.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

VES Annual Meeting

For those VES Members in Southern Calif. don't forget there's the VES Annual Membership Meeting.

(This is a members only meeting.  Sorry, no guests)

When: Tomorrow, September 23, 2010
Where: Hollywood  (see email or check VES site for details)
Reception: 6pm
Meeting: 7:30

Meetings in Vancouver and San Francisco Bay as well.

There has been remote access for non-local members

Monday, September 20, 2010

Price of VFX Education

VFXSoldier has a good posting about VFX education.

As VFXSoldier points out all of these VFX schools are in it for profit, which is fine, but be aware of what the true costs are, especially to what they're selling and that you actually end up with at the end of the day.  This is like all the books, DVDs, classes and other items related to screenwriting where there are a very limited number of actual script sold.  There's a whole business of selling to those with dreams in a limited market.

It's good to have dreams but don't go into early and costly debt, especially if you don't have to.

I recently replied to a comment in another posting and through email to someone asking about education:

Degree course - I don't know of any vfx company that requires a degree in vfx or a specific software package. I suppose some type of 'degree' shows you've taken a class but the thing that will get you hired is your reel, list of credits and your list of software you know and the level you know it. (be honest on your resume) 

If you want to get a university/college degree then best to check out the colleges near you or well know ones. However very few colleges offer real vfx classes.

You can learn quite a bit of the basics of any software with books, DVDs or online.  Good books and the better online classes cover the material at a professional level.   obviously you have to push yourself because it's self-education but this allows you to learn at your own pace and location without a lot of expense.   I'm self taught in electronics, computer programming, photography, vfx and many other things.

Many in person classes only run through the process of learning the software unless the teacher actually has hands on experience in production and the class is structured to cover those issues as well.

Many of the vendors of software have learning additions and tutorials.  As with most software read the manual first.

Check out the School Post if you haven't already. has classes on Maya, Nuke and others. Steve Write does the Nuke tutorial. Relatively cheap. and are some of the ones that offer more in-depth online tutorials. Please see the school links for the others.  

The only classes I've actually seen have seen the ones at so I can't provide any pros/cons.

The downside to all/most of the online classes is they are English only. 

Obviously the online classes require a reasonable computer and internet access.

The advantages of an actual course is it's likely to be in your language, hopefully the teacher will offer critiques and have you do various exercises. 

If you do need to take a clas I would recommend trying to find websites/forums that cover those schools to see what other opinions are. You can contact many companies and see if they have recommended schools. (i.e. these would be high on their list of likely candidates)

Nuke and Maya - Those tend to be the most popular for high end work. After Effects is also used extensively.

However you might want to check the local vfx companies to see what their job listings include.  It may be that Max or Lightwave are more popular where you are and that After Effects is the most popular compositing software.  So keep in mind what your marketable skills are.  If you know a software product that's not in use at most of the places that would hire you then it may not be much value so be sure to consider that first.

The other key thing as mentioned in my blog is to make sure you understand the actual process of what's happening.  If you understand the basics concepts of compositing, pulling keys, dealing with color then it's much easier to switch to another software package and learn the specific functions.  It also much easier to problem solve and adapt.  If you only know which button to push then it's going to be difficult to deal with anything out of the ordinary.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

VFX artists don't need to be taken advantage of

I wrote this post nearly 3 years ago yet here's another Montreal studio that has not paid their visual effects workers.

Here's another Variety article just today:  Trouble at Newbreed VFX Cementing Montreal’s Bad Rep

 I think that's at least 4 studios in Montreal that have pulled the same stunt and at least 2 of these companies were management by the same guy.  What is it about Montreal that makes people want to work for free? That people are unwilling to unite? That people would rather work for free for someone making profits than to demand pay and to walk out? I know those of us in visual effects are an optimistic bunch but come on. Either unite or you will repeat history.

Original post

Variety had an article about another VFX company in Montreal not paying their vfx artists:

“The latest bad news from the vfx biz comes from Montreal's Fake Studio, part of the Camera e-Motion Group. A handful of artists who worked for Fake on the 3D vfx for Dimension's "Piranha 3D" have yet to receive payments due in April.”

I know vfx people love what they do but they don’t have to scr*wed in the process. Besides having to deal with art and technology, vfx artists have to know some common business sense.

So let’s review a few things:
1. Get it in writing.  Get it in writing. Get it in writing.           
When you are hired you should have a signed  basic agreement regarding your pay rate and hours. You don’t want to find out that what you thought you were hired for and what the company thought you were hired for are two different things.  Nor do you want to find out they expect an extra 48 hours of overtime for free.

If someone makes a promise to you, get it in writing.  If they don’t want to put it in writing then it’s likely not as valuable as a sheet of paper.

A document won’t prevent a problem but the potential is there for legal follow through (usually you’d pay more for a lawyer so that’s not a great option).  The main advantage is there’s no discussion needed with management if something comes up.  It’s there in black and white.
[Related: VFX Deal Memo post]

2. If you don’t get paid for the previous week you worked, then stop working there.  Here’s the thing, if a business doesn’t have enough money for their employees, especially when they have a project, then they are poor business people and the chances to ever get paid are slim to none.  Someone mentioned getting paid a week in advance. If you don’t trust the company enough to pay you correctly from the start, then why would you want to work there?

When we had Dream Quest, the vfx company I co-founded years ago, there were times when things were tight.  When that was the case, we as the owners would skip our pay in order to pay the workers.  If a company has started a project they should have a startup payment and payments to be made during production. I’ll cover starting a vfx company in a future post but suffice it to say any company has to have at least 6 months of funding with no money coming in.

As pointed out in the article most vfx companies are started by artists who don’t know business. At Dream Quest we didn’t release the final product until we were paid.  Once we had to forced a client to provide a cashiers check because they had made the bad decision to not be paid until the end of their job, which of course was after we finished our portion.

3. If the employees didn’t get paid the previous week then they should consider going to management as a group to politely request payment or the option of all of the group leaving.  That’s when you have leverage to make things happen.  If you go one by one the company can dismiss you.  If you wait until the project is over and wonder why you’re not being paid for the past 3 months, it’s too late.  You have no leverage at that point. This is part of the reason there are unions.  This type of stuff was pulled by companies a fair bit at one time.  Once the workers decided they were tired of working for free they grouped together.  

4. A vfx company can be very pressured by their clients for non-realistic bids.  There's also pressure for not turning in change orders even when it's a clear client change. As a worker there, that's not your fault.

5. Somebody is making money and it’s not you.  Some how the company has money for leasing a building, paying for power, paying management, etc.  Someone is hiring them (i.e paying them) to do the vfx work.

6. Don’t assume the company will do right for you because you put in those extra hours for free and came through and saved their necks on project.  Management changes, business reasons or poor decisions are all likely to cause the poor treatment or payment of workers.  

7. You will need to be paid.  Just because you might not need the money today, you will if you hope to continue to do vfx as more than a hobby. The good companies are looking for professionals, not hobbyists.

8 It’s not the VFX artist responsibility to work for free so others can make money.  Nor is it to work for free to make up for a management mistake.

9. Respect yourself.  Respect your job.  VFX is a demanding art-form requiring gifted and knowledgeable people.

10. Your target should be to get a job at a great company doing great work and getting paid for it.  Even if you're starting out (after learning vfx from where ever or whatever (big school, online school, no school, doesn’t matter)). If it’s a shady company, the work they’re producing is poor, you’re not getting paid for it or you’re not having fun, then it’s time to move on.

Only work for free if:
1. It’s a true cause you wish to donate your time to. (i.e Save the Whales PSA)
2. It’s your own passion project (short film, music video, etc)
3. It’s your best friend’s project and you owe him one. (Even then, keep it short)

If you’re in school, sure, work on other people projects. That’s a way to learn and network.

Craig’s list is full of opportunities for vfx people who want to work for free. They offer credit and something for your reel.  Here’s the thing: No employer will care about a long list of never seen projects directed by someone they’ve never heard of.  So the credit being offered has as much value as the money they’re offering.

The item for the reel is only of value if it’s very good.  The experience is only good if you’re going to actually learn something of value (and I don’t mean learning not to be taken advantage of).

Be aware the client with the least money will be the most demanding.

 Internships are also something to be wary of - link to article

At the end of the day you have to be the one looking after yourself.  Don’t let companies take advantage of you just because you love what you do.

Bonus: Should I work for free chart

Monday, August 16, 2010

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Vfx helps U.K. post-production stay afloat

For those that don't think the incentives have anything to do with VFX:

From Variety article Vfx helps U.K. post-production stay afloat

 "While most entertainment business sectors in the U.K. are undergoing tumultuous budget cuts or worrying about downsizing, the folks running post-production houses are relatively sanguine. Sure, even the post biz stumbled a bit during the economic downturn, but the future now holds plenty of promise, particularly for those who create visual effects.

In fact, thanks to a concentration of talent and tax incentives, Blighty's share of the film visual effects market has nearly doubled from 2005 to some 20% of the worldwide biz."


"There was a huge fear in the election that government would change the tax credit, and thank goodness it didn't."

(Blogger evidently uses a random generator for font sizing and text placement)

Monday, August 09, 2010

Incentive and film program updates

Every week there seem to be new updates on state or country incentive and film programs.

Here's a snippet:
Scottish-born producer Iain Smith, whose credits include "The A-Team," "Children of Men" and "Local Hero," expressed the need for the government to quickly form a plan or risk producers looking elsewhere to shoot films.

"While we have a fantastic infrastructure, we have to protect that as much as we can and in order to do that we have to compete against industries in other countries," said Smith. "There's no doubt we need to tighten purse strings but we need to be careful we don't asphyxiate the film industry in general."

But in an article written for Blighty's Observer newspaper on Sunday, culture secretary Jeremy Hunt hit back at critics.

"If we are going to face budget cuts I have a duty to ensure that taxpayers' money is spent where it gets the most bang for its buck," he said. "It is simply not acceptable in these times to fund an organization like the U.K. Film council where no fewer than eight of the top executives are paid more than £100,000 ($160,000)."

Hunt added: "Stopping money being spent on a film quango is not the same as stopping money being spent on film."

"This new credit will give New York post production services a much needed competitive edge," explains Rich Friedlander, co-founder of Brainstorm Digital. "We increasingly saw visual effects post work going to Canada thanks to their their Digital Animation or Visual Effects tax credit (DAVE). This new program will allow work that was filmed in New York to stay through its entire production cycle. It's a major move that will attract and keep top talent here in state."

Friday, August 06, 2010

Sad but true..

Believe me,  you don't want to see most vfx artists stripping.
Unfortunately most VFX companies end up going through the following.  These would be funny if
they weren't so realistic.  I've seen the same things almost verbatim so they're not exaggerated
Note that a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing since there are times when the client feels they need to define how the vfx need to be done to the experienced vfx people they hired.

    Caution: Explicit Language

The unrealistic portion here is the client reminding you it's a fixed bid.  They don't even bother saying that. 

Here's another example how clients work with VFX companies and vfx artists

VIDEO: The Vendor Client relationship - in real world situations

Overtime?  What's that?

VIDEO: Do you like fighting robots? The interview. 

Ray Harryhausen and Chuck Jones exhibitions closing soon

Just a reminder for those in L.A. the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has a special exhibit on Ray Harryhausen that opened in May and will be closing Aug 22.  Free.
More info on the exhibit here.

If you don't know, Ray Harryhausen was the master of stop motion visual effects and worked on many films including Jason and the Argonauts and Seventh Voyage of Sinbad among others.
He inspired most of my generation of vfx artists to do what we do. (and Peter Jackson and other filmmakers)  Sony Imageworks recently named a theater after him and many of his films are being released on Blu-ray.  There was a large birthday party for Ray a few months ago.

The exhibition has quite a number of the stop motion models on display along with artwork, video from the films, interviews with and about Ray.   If you want to see some beautiful models and fantastic artwork, check it out.

While you're there be sure to check out the Chuck Jones exhibition that is going on at the same time in the same building (2 different floors).  Plenty of great artwork and sections from scripts.  If you don't know Chuck Jones he was the mastermind of many of the Warner Bros. cartoons - Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Wile E. Coyote, Elmer Fudd, etc.  More info here.

If you're in visual effects you really need to make sure you're up on film history and the artists that created it.  Even with the newer tools we have today we can still learn a lot about the actual artistry from these artists and apply them to our own work.

Below are a few of the books and videos but there are plenty more.


Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Could unionization save vfx facilities?

Could unionization save vfx facilities? is  a posting by vfxsoldier.

There are those who argue that any type of unionization will drive the nail in the coffin for US VFX production.  Since it's unlikely the pay will be increased at most facilities the only additional costs should be things like health insurance.  As he rightly points out the IA unions receive film and TV residuals so the burden is much less than normal insurance, especially given the number of members.

Scott Ross has said unions would only make sense if the vfx companies were rich.  But health and welfare along with pension plans are also involved.  There are also issues of working conditions and hours.

The likeliest conflict is overtime pay.  Sure, some productions can cause this situation but in other cases the vfx company is the indirect cause of the problem by not properly scheduling crews or resources from the start.

If you watched the initial BP segment on 60 Minutes after the spill, an executive at the company demanded the drilling be sped up and precautions to be ignored.  That broke the drill and now a new hole had to be created from scratch. The same executives were putting pressure on the workers because they were now 2 weeks behind and so many millions of dollars over budget; as if it were the workers fault.

Poor decisions can be made by anyone - vfx artists, vfx supervisors, vfx company management, studio executives, producers, etc.  The problem is when a lot of other people have to suffer because of it. And it's even more of an issue when you see those same poor decisions made repeatedly.

Unions aren't the cure all for the ills of the vfx industry but they should be honestly considered along with other approaches and restructuring.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Escape Studios competition extended

I was recently contacted by Escape Studios, which offers VFX training in the UK and online. I thought readers might be interested so here's the info from them:

We're currently running a competition looking for the best showreel produced by a final year university student or recent graduate so that will be one individual from the UK and one from the US.

We've put a video on YouTube that may be able to explain things better than I can and gives a bit detail of the CG Graduate Design Awards:

YouTube Video Details

We’ve just extended the deadline to the 16th August to give students extra time to get more showreels ready.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

VES Handbook Released

The VES Handbook of Visual Effects is now shipping. I know at least a couple of people I spoke to thought "why do we need another vfx book?" Once they saw the scope and depth of the handbook they changed their minds. It's not a tutorial. It doesn't deal with specific software or hardware. The book covers a wide range of things: budgeting, previs, shooting on set, shooting elements, color issues, digital cameras, stereo, rendering fur, video game creation, workflow, etc. We've tried to at least touch on a bit of everything and in most cases we had experts writing a detailed article. I'm hoping vfx artist of all types will find a use for it as a reference, to help fill in gaps of knowledge, tips and tricks and as a means to come up to speed on other areas of visual effects that may be outside their expertise.

If you're at SIGGRAPH this week they have some copies at the Focal Press / Morgan Kaufman booth that you can check out. (update: Told if you show your membership card you'll get the discount there)

VES members check emails for member discount.

Amazon does have it on sale at 10% less than the marked retail.

Focal Press is hoping to release the book on Kindle and as a paid eBook PDF on their site shortly. There's some conversion involved to get it into an electronic version. They are also trying to get it on the iBook store but that may take a little longer.  Kindle edition would work on any device with Kindle software - iPhone, iPad, PC/Mac, etc.  iBook version would be for the iPad and iPhone. These eBook versions will be handy to have available where ever you are.  The printed book is 922 pages.

NOTE: Focal Press did want to alert buyers that the electronic versions will be missing 70 photos that are in the printed book. These are photos from the studios or other sources that we don't have e-rights to.

PIRATE COPIES:  Please don't pirate the book.  Pirating is stealing, despite what excuses people give themselves.  Assuming you are involved in vfx you are involved in making IP (Intellectual property) that can be pirated.  I suspect you'd like to be paid for your work and the time you put into something. Respect yourself and the business you're in.  I and the other authors/editors who worked on the book chose to volunteer so the VES could provide something of value to vfx artists and that could also provide a source of revenue for the VES.   The more copies that are pirated, the less likely updates are made. This is true of any product for sale.

Focal Press will also have a place on their site that will have some extended articles which were trimmed down for the book.

I was a co-editor and did write some of the articles. I cover some of the issues from this blog but these were all re-written from scratch for the book.

Added:  Focal Press has a sample online.  The page also lists the table of contents. See link lower on that page for a sampler.   This is a section of Bill Taylor's article on shooting greenscreen/bluescreen.  This article gets into a lot detail because it's a defined technical process.  In the handbook there are a mix of articles, some that deal with very specific technical issues and some that deal with broader issues.

VES Handbook companion site - Includes author bios and extended versions of some of the articles.

10/27/2010 Update

VES Handbook of Visual Effects released for the Kindle!  Now take it with you on the Kindle, iPad, iPhone, etc.

7/20/2011 Update  Now actually out for good on the Kindle and Nook.

8/4/2010 update
I was interviewed about the handbook by fxGuide which always does a fantastic podcast.  (Subscribe through iTunes)  In the video I'm trying to blink at 24fps and as always my hands are juggling invisible objects.  Sorry. I would be remiss if I didn't mentioned fxphd, which is an great online training program created by the same team involved with fxGuide.  They cover Nuke and many of the professional packages.

One other note is someone on Amazon reviewed the book and didn't think it would help you get a shot finished.  No it won't. It was never designed to do so.  As I mentioned in the video interview if you're already an expert in any one thing and that's the only article in the book you read then you're not going to get a lot out of it.  The book is designed to provide the principles to areas outside your expertise. It does cover pre-production and production, which not all vfx artists are involved with, but are critical in seeing a shot all the way through the process.  If the live action is not shot correctly then there's less likelihood of success downstream.

There are also an infinite number of vfx shots and numerous programs and other tools that can be used so trying to come up with a solution book for all 3D rendering, compositing, animating, (etc) issues would be impossible.  You're better off getting a specific book or online class targeted your specific software applications (and kept up to date).

You can post comments here for what changes/additions you'd like to see in the next update. I view the handbook like a software application that will get updates and have improvements made to it.  If you're a VES member there's a specific area of the forums at the VES site to provide feedback as well.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Globalization and VFX

Globalization and VFX

One of the issues facing VFX companies and artists is the issue of globalization. Given the tax incentives and cost of living variance around the world most film studios are looking beyond the borders to find a better price for doing film work, including visual effects.

This blog is read around the world. This article will have a California slant but I’m trying to as always document the current state of affairs in visual effects.

In the golden age of movie making most Hollywood films were shot in Los Angeles with some being done in New York. The studios were setup as film factories to be as efficient as possible. If you finished a film on Friday, you'd start another film on Monday. The stages, sets, back lots and rear projection allowed them to shoot a wide range of film settings within the confines of the studio lot. If you want New York in the 1890's you go to one block of the back lot. If you wanted a1940's Midwest town you'd make a left into that back lot street. Many 'locations' were within easy driving distance of the studios, which also had ranches and other outdoor areas where they could construct western towns or other special settings.

With films like Easy Rider studios started to reconsider what they needed. Many back lots were sold for short-term gains and more true location shooting was done. In some cases if a film could be shot at a lower price in a different location that made sense. In other cases it made sense to go to another location if that truly was the location in film.

When films like Star Wars and Close Encounters were filmed the majority of visual effects were done in Los Angeles. When ILM moved to northern California that spread the work a bit but still the majority of the big, Hollywood vfx work was done within California. VFX companies were on a relatively level playing field. The jobs were awarded based on ability, quality and costs.

As the digital age of visual effects got underway some countries and states started offering tax incentives that included vfx. The digital age enabled the use of computers and software to be setup anywhere. VFX artists can be brought in from anywhere else and setup with little effort. VFX artists can be trained in the basics locally. The internet allows images to be sent anywhere quickly for work to be done and reviewed anywhere else. The studios, always eager to save money on things that weren’t under their umbrella, were more than happy to start sending out work. In their view, vfx are a commodity that can be done anywhere.

At this point a number of countries offer tax incentives, rebates or even pre-investments in films in exchange for a certain amount of work to be done in that country. Various states also have tax incentives as well to try to get millions of dollars of production costs to come to their state. The details vary greatly and can be a smart or bad investment depending on the details.

From the various governments viewpoint (state and country) an incentive means that they can draw film production to their location. A film production can bring in millions of dollars to a given locale fairly quickly. A factory doesn’t have to be built over time before people can be employed and there usually aren’t a lot of ecology studies required. All the products, services and rentals that can be had are paid for by production (hotels, catering, car rentals, hardware stores, etc). The crew spends a fair bit of their money locally on things like restaurants, bars and leisure time activates. If a location is portrayed well it may mean extra tourists in the future. When long-term incentives are in place then an entire film studio infrastructure can be built in that location and crewmembers of all types can be developed, including visual effects artists. Many third party companies develop to service the motion picture industry at these locations.

Companies in Vancouver, London and similar locations are doing well since they don’t have to compete on a level playing field. With a 20% or more savings via the government it’s difficult for vfx companies in the U.S. to compete directly.

From the studio perspective their main aim is to do a film as cheaply as possible and still make it work. If the film is a major VFX tent pole movie with a lot of difficult or new vfx then they will pay top dollar to make it and to ensure it will be done on time and to the quality required. But this only applies to those shots and sequences they feel need to be done at expensive vfx companies. One step down from those types of shots (certainly simpler compositing and roto shots) or lower level vfx film and price becomes one of the highest priorities.

A Hollywood studios first choice is usually Vancouver simply because it’s in the same time zone, is just a 3 hour flight away and they all speak English there. Second choice would probably be London since it’s the next closest location, they speak English and studios executives and key personal enjoy the London life. Next would be Australia. (New Zealand with Weta is primarily on the big projects and not so much a cost saving measure). India, China and other locations are further down on the list if the studio executives and key personnel think they will have to go there. If they don’t have to personally travel there, then the studio is all for sending the work anywhere in the world.

Obviously some studios now have infrastructures setup in various locations and their choice will be dictated by their established suppliers. You’ll notice most editing and sound mixing still happens in the U.S. since the filmmakers and studios spend a fair bit of time involved directly in these activities. They’re also not at the same level of expense as vfx.

Some people think that the studios won’t go anywhere just based on price but it’s very dependent on the nature of the work. There was an article a few months ago where most of the studios were now sending out their subtitling work (as done on the DVD’s). The cost savings to the studio? $600. A $100 million dollar movie and they send out the subtitling to a different country to save $600. I’m not a studio accountant but I suspect there might be a few other budget items that would yield larger savings but since subtitling (and vfx) are done by third parties it’s an easy win for any studio person to make that decision.

Unfortunately the location that has the most to lose (and gain) from subsidies is California. They have done too little, too late. A large revenue stream for California (especially southern California) comes from movies. There are a lot of people employed in this business and they in turn spend their money locally on services and products.
Runaway product continues to suck out revenues from California and unfortunately most of the California legislation can’t get a simple grasp of the obvious. Motion pictures are one of the U.S.’s largest exports.

People (and politicians) assume since movies bring in huge revenue that everyone who works in movies are ‘gazillionairs’ to quote another internet forum. What they forget is the vast majority of people involved in movie making are making working wages. The median income for writers in the Writers Guild is $44,000 a year. Most VFX people make more than this but if it’s averaged over all vfx artists and dry spells it may not be as much as you think.

Some US companies are opening satellite companies in other countries that are able to offer a better price break. There are multiple arrangements. In some cases they simply outsource the work they feel can be outsourced such as Roto. In other cases they have a full working relationship where the foreign company does a fair bit of real work on the actual product. Some companies operate independent shops in different countries that can be leveraged, as the work requires it.

Part of the issue is what is to be gained for everyone involved. If the focus of the studios is purely on the cost factor, having a US based VFX company doesn't necessarily gain them much. They're willing to pay top dollar today for certain projects with a lot of R&D but what happens in a few years when those techniques and software are more readily available in off the shelf products? If your California vfx company has some specialty (water, fire, etc) what happens when that’s all in the next major update of a software package? Will you continue to get work? What happens when vfx production management elsewhere is brought up to the same level? Will the studios continue to be willing pay more to a U.S. company to act as an intermediate?

Will most of the work being done in the US move out of the country and the only thing remaining be the vfx company executives and accountants?

If you live in a country that is currently doing well (healthy vfx production) because of the incentives or reduced expenses what happens when that changes? At some point your government may reduce or eliminate the incentive. Another country may offer a higher incentive. The world and local economy may increase the cost of doing business such that the incentives aren’t enough or another location may end up being even a lower expense because of changing cost of living factors. The studios will quickly move to the lowest priced area that can provide them what they need. Can you and the company you work for compete on a level playing field if it had to? Is your company truly efficient? Does it have the talented artists and R&D people required?

If you live in California (or starting here) what can you do?

1. You can work at some of the larger companies such as ILM, DD, etc. These still get large projects but they still lay off massive amounts of people and still go through cycles of feast or famine work so there’s no guarantee of long-term employment even if you’re considered on staff.

2. Consider working at a small to mid-size shop that continues to maintain a reasonable balance of work. Many of these do all television work (which is usually done here or in Vancouver) or that at least do some television work to help balance the work.

3. Consider moving out of country to where the actual work is being done. This sounds like a simple fix to anyone who doesn’t consider the implications.

a. There are already people working there. Are there enough job openings to make it worth moving there?

b. How long is the project? Is this a permanent move or will you have to shuffle off again in few months to somewhere else?

c. Can you qualify to work elsewhere? Many countries require work visas and other paperwork. Some incentives require crewmembers to be living in the country for a given length of time. Just because there is technical and creative work elsewhere doesn’t mean you can just move there and start working.

d. Can you work at reduced wages if that’s the reason the work is located in that country? If you’re at a location that is getting work based mainly on the cost of living can you work there yourself at the reduced rate and feel comfortable? Does the local taxes and other issues reduced the income even further?

e. What happens if you have loved ones, family, house or other connections here? If you’re young and single it may be fun and exciting to move to another location. For those of us with families do we sell the house and uproot all family members (taking children out of school and away from their friends) to go work in another country? Do we leave the family for long periods of time? (6 months to a year or longer) Do we try to rent out the house and hope to return someday?

It’s a sad state of affairs when experienced vfx artists, with all of their creative and technical skills, are likened to migrant farm workers moving to where the work is. At least there’s a real reason farm workers move is because of locations of the crops and growing seasons. In the case of the vfx artist a cubicle is a cubicle, no matter where in the world it’s located. The only reason for moving is purely at the whim of the counties incentives and the studios.

Unfortunately I can’t offer any real solutions. The unions can’t prevent work from moving out of the country. The politicians seem to be the few who have much control over this so they’re the ones to contact. I know that there are some organizations trying to make this better. If you’re in a location doing well then enjoy it while you can. If you’re in California it’s likely you’ll have to do what you have to do. There are now some vfx supes that spend months shooting in one country and then do the post in another country and spend most of the year away from their families.

Will there be enough of a demand and balance that all the vfx companies and artists throughout the world can keep reasonably busy and can enjoy the fruits of their labor?

(Links added 7/12/10 based on VFX Soldier comment posting. See comments for my basic response at this time.  The links all make interesting reading and really get to the heart of the matter.)

VFX Soldier  VFX Subsidy War Grows Into Global Trade War

(If you're viewing this on a page with other posts then please click on the Comments link below to see the comments and responses)

Update 8-9-2010
Every week there seem to be new updates on state or country incentive programs.
Clint Eastwood makes UKFC plea - Entertainment News, Top News, Media - Variety

Here's a snippet:

Scottish-born producer Iain Smith, whose credits include "The A-Team," "Children of Men" and "Local Hero," expressed the need for the government to quickly form a plan or risk producers looking elsewhere to shoot films.

"While we have a fantastic infrastructure, we have to protect that as much as we can and in order to do that we have to compete against industries in other countries," said Smith. "There's no doubt we need to tighten purse strings but we need to be careful we don't asphyxiate the film industry in general."

But in an article written for Blighty's Observer newspaper on Sunday, culture secretary Jeremy Hunt hit back at critics.

"If we are going to face budget cuts I have a duty to ensure that taxpayers' money is spent where it gets the most bang for its buck," he said. "It is simply not acceptable in these times to fund an organization like the U.K. Film council where no fewer than eight of the top executives are paid more than £100,000 ($160,000)."

Hunt added: "Stopping money being spent on a film quango is not the same as stopping money being spent on film."



"This new credit will give New York post production services a much needed competitive edge," explains Rich Friedlander, co-founder of Brainstorm Digital. "We increasingly saw visual effects post work going to Canada thanks to their their Digital Animation or Visual Effects tax credit (DAVE). This new program will allow work that was filmed in New York to stay through its entire production cycle. It's a major move that will attract and keep top talent here in state."