Digital Domain dominates discussions at Saturday’s VES Summit 2012 at the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Marina del Rey.
Co-founder and former Digital Domain CEO Scott Ross called for the industry to support a trade association and stand up to the studios, while new CEO Ed Ulbrich discussed the reboot of DD 3.0, the current state of which he compared to a 1.0 release.
“The business is much too warm and cuddly,” Ross said, adding that the studios need to take on directors when movies get out of control, and VFX companies need to wield their power to negotiate with the studios for better compensation. Ross said he supports unionization but cautioned that it is “a question of timing and that now is not the time.”
Ulbrich said the recent Digital Domain bankruptcy and sale to Beijing’s Galloping Horse and India’s Reliance has been a wild ride, comparing the partnership to Survivor and adding that DD now has the capitalization to continue as a thriving VFX studio and eventually may open a studio in China. “We need to send people over there to help close the gap,” he said, speaking of a talent gap. “Going to India allows us to mature in LA by scaling up with larger projects. India is part of the future of the VFX business.”
This year’s Summit focused on the intersection between creative content and the business bottom line, with attention to how social media impacts decision-making. A panel moderated by Desowitz, Is Television VFX the Future of Feature Film VFX?, featured a discussion about being productive with limited resources and thriving with generalists rather than specialists, as well as taking advantage of globalization and being on the cutting edge of virtual production. Desowitz was joined by Mat Beck of Entity FX, Sam Nicholson of Stargate Studios, Andrew Orloff of Zoic Studios, and Steve Pugh of Pixomondo.
During Tax Incentives Around the Globe, a panel discussion with Disney VFX exec Ruth Hauej and Mary Ann Hughes, Vice President, Film and Television Production Planning at The Walt Disney Company, Hughes noted that 39 states offer a viable production incentive, but while production can bring specialized crew and equipment with them for a shoot visual effects requires local infrastructure and talent. Out of the 39 states offering incentives, only seven offer stand-alone visual effects credits, and of those seven, only four have realistic large-scale visual effects capabilities. In the rest of the world, there are stand-alone VFX incentives in Canada, the U.S., Australia, and New Zealand. In Europe, the EU requires a cultural test and credits are tied to principal photography.
Jennifer Wolfe is Director of News & Content at Animation World Network.