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VFX Production Topic of New Media Council/VES Discussion

There is currently a paradigm shift in the world of vfx with the ascendance of the visual effects producer, according to supervisor Jeff Okun (THE LAST SAMURAI), who participated Thursday night in a panel discussion on "Producing Magic on Time and on Budget" at Sony Pictures Imageworks, sponsored by the Producers Guild of America's New Media Council and the Visual Effects Society.

Okun said this makes for a tricky power struggle between creativity and budgeting. "In the old dayslast yearthe supervisor was called in firstnow the producer gets called in first" And since the producer approves the budget, the supervisor often gets entangled in a "proof of concept" ordeal with the studios. As a result, Okun has had four films get cancelled in the past year.

Other panel members included producer Barrie Osborne (THE LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy and THE MATRIX), vfx producer Mike Chambers (THE DAY AFTER TOMORROW), vfx producer and supervisor Matt Gore (the new BATTLESTAR GALACTICA series) and vfx producer Chris Kubsch (HARRY POTTER AND THE CHAMBER OF SECRETS, OVER THE HEDGE). Jenny Fulle, exec producer and feature production department manager at Imageworks (OPEN SEASON and THE LION, THE WITCH AND THE WARDROBE), served as moderator.

Most of the discussion centered on basic production issues: Osborne noted that the mix of practical and CGI is often unpredictable. The use of lava in THE LORD OF THE RINGS was more effective with miniatures than CGI, while the climax of RETURN OF THE KING proved more effective - and costly - with CGI rather than with miniatures. Chambers said previs on THE DAY AFTER TOMORROW went right into post, which is why they called it "postvis." Gore offered that in TV vfx shots are the most expensive shots and the last to do and are often rushed. Kubsch suggested that splitting the work among several facilities allows you to spread the risk and deal with last minute surprises.