Paradigm Shifting at the VES Production Summit
written by Bill Desowitz
Last Saturday the VES hosted its third annual Production Summit, this time at the quaint Montage Hotel in Beverly Hills. Despite all about VES 2.0 and the Bill of Rights to help facilitate quality of life improvements for artists and VFX companies, the purpose was to address the paradigm shift going on and to discuss better biz practices.
The latest wrinkle was starting with a series of breakfast roundtable discussions, ranging from animation trends and open source development/trends to partnering with international companies to the challenges of 3-D stereo, 48-60fps, digital color.
I sat in on the 3-D discussion, and the take away was that stereographers need to be better education in camera as well as VFX. The hope is that while more cinematographers will embrace 3-D, more stereographers will be able to collaborate more effectively with them and directors.
Not surprisingly, a hybrid model of shooting natively in 3-D and post conversion will continue to evolve because of expediency. But figuring out the requirements for both throughout the next two years is essential.
However, shooting natively is the goal, as cameras get lighter, smarter and cheaper. Still, on Journey to the Center of the Earth 2, the rigs were too large to accommodate two cameras side by side, so they shot it twice and converted, according to VFX producer Randy Starr, who moderated the discussion. Soon the price of shooting 3-D will be much more economical, despite the need for two cameras.
Then the keynote was delivered by Bob Pisano, former MPAA president, who admitted that a new sequencing distribution model for theatrical and sell-through is required to make up for the $10 billion a year in lost revenue from DVDs. Time-based windows just don't work in the era of social media. Pisano also encouraged VFX artists to make their case for royalties.
During a panel discussion about 24-hour studio productivity, Ted Gagliano, Fox's president of feature post production, described the glaring disparity between Rise of the Planet of the Apes, which had a 41-week post schedule to accommodate Weta Digital's latest performance capture innovation, and X-Men: First Class, which only had four weeks because of its contracted production schedule. Gagliano admitted that the X-Men experience was not the way to make a movie. And yet it worked out and met its release schedule.
But Apes had a last-minute hitch because in the original script James Franco's scientist dies. But it didn't test well so they rewrote a more effective farewell to the CG Caesar played by Andy Serkis in Muir Woods. This necessitated flying Franco from North Carolina to Northern California over July 4th weekend for the reshoot.
What's the solution? According to featured speaker Tom Wujec, an Autodesk Fellow, better collaboration in design with the latest and greatest tools goes a long way toward clarity of vision before you go into production. Otherwise, the consequences are severe.
Meanwhile, Stephan Trojansky of Scanline VFX, said it was important to open up a division in LA close to the studios to remain competitive, while also expanding in Vancouver and maintaining its Munich flagship. Further development of the proprietary Flowline fluid simulation has paid big dividends, as Trojansky eyes further software innovations to remain a player.
Thilo Kuther, CEO of Pixomondo (Hugo), has expanded into a global network of 11 facilities in five countries. He reiterated that Pixomondo is distinguished by its unique, 24-hour production cycle based on an internal, YouTube-like system, and that core software and principals are the underlying factors of his company.
And what's the major take away? More and more of the VFX work is being front loaded as part of production, allowing more time for artistic concerns instead of technical ones. And VFX reform is necessary, but it has to come from within, and there needs to be systematic improvements to combat disorganized productions, putting heavy burdens on everyone.