Digital Entertainment Creation: Paths to Profitability
Early Decisions Reduce Costs
Whether for feature films, video games or television, the earlier in the pipeline decisions can be made, the better. The "I'll tell you when I like it" model that we currently see in post is unaffordable – there's no way to efficiently execute when creative decisions are being made at the last minute. Autodesk's tools and pipelines are designed to help prototype the story early -- to capture creative intent and convey it all the way through the process. The goal is an integrated pipeline where decisions can be made in the context of the story and easily propagated. Do previs in Maya; export timelines to Smoke; so that when you're in post you can immediately reference the creative intent of all the decisions that were made before. To help accomplish this we have made major enhancements to products and workflows -- from the Maya viewport that lets artists animate in a context that is closer to what will end up on screen to single-step workflows between applications. We have also been developing common visual language, icons and keyboard shortcuts between our products to help our customers move data quickly, preserve creative intent and deliver a higher quality product faster through targeted iteration. If budgets won't expand, non-creative tasks need to shrink. Any time or effort spent that doesn't show up on the screen can and should be avoided. Previs helps, as does the ability to move data efficiently from one part of the process to the next.
VFX Saves Production Costs Elsewhere
The fact is, of course, production budgets are not increasing and timelines are shrinking. But the same force (profitability) that is squeezing VFX production in high-end feature film is creating opportunity in new areas such as television, where VFX can help cut costs. In fact, VFX are proliferating in television as more and more shows look to digital technology to help create scenes, sets and environments that are prohibitively expensive to stage, cast and shoot. For similar reasons, visual effects are also increasingly used to augment low budget live action films. But visual effects also enable stories to be told that simply aren't possible any other way. Natalie Portman's dramatic transformation in Black Swan, is a case in point. It is a key crescendo to the story. Without Look Effects' visual effects, that story simply could not have been told. The fact that the film was nominated, not in the Visual Effects category -- but for Best Picture, demonstrates the maturation of visual effects as a narrative device. These are new opportunities for visual effects and VFX tools are important storytelling tools just like any other that filmmakers already have at their disposal.
These new opportunities are now possible because of the democratization of visual effects tools and technology. Autodesk introduced its entertainment creation suites at the start of the recession to help accelerate this trend, making it easier for a broader range of productions to integrate VFX into their stories. The suites are essentially "studios in a box," at affordable prices. Independent-minded VFX artists can set up a studio anywhere in the world with these tools, and with the right talent, can deliver high quality work that meets the highest film, game and TV standards.