Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Remote VFX & the cost+ model

Following on from the blog post I created in January 2015, it looks like the VFX industry is changing for the better. We now have the ability to work remotely using the cloud and subscription services and the industry is finally, albeit slowly, adopting the cost+ model!!

Below is a video recorded at Siggraph by the Foundry which discusses the current business model of the VFX industry and how we need to adopt the cost+ model.

If you are just starting out in the VFX industry or are thinking about starting your own studio you should definitely watch this video...

How can we achieve the cost+ model

As VFX Artists I believe we need to adopt a more transparent approach; we also need to be honest about the bottom line with the client, as well as with our co-workers. We may have less overheads working remotely but we still need to make a living, so discussing the clients needs in detail, early on really helps.

I recently put together a bid for a 176 shot show (we didn't win it!). It gave the director a breakdown of what might be needed from each shot - with built in contingency. The assets were budgeted separately. We were working off a script so it was all down to interpretation.

As all the artists would be working remotely, using their own software, the quote was based purely on the total costs of artist's time, plus rendering. Each shot included 1 simple amendment (2 if it was a pure GFX shot), anything that needed to go back to animation or assets would need to be requoted or paid for by the hour.

Perhaps my breakdown was too detailed, however I felt it was important to show the budget for each shot correctly so the client was aware of the work involved. This may not yet be a popular approach in the industry, but things are moving towards a fairer business model for VFX studios.

It's all in the planning!

TV, web series and animation in general seem to have a clearer budget from the outset. Over the past few years companies like Amazon and Netflix have started to produce their own series, which has seen a boom in great new shows appearing on our TV and streaming services.

These shows always have the need for VFX - even if it is as subtle as changing a label on a bottle or as extreme as blowing up a stadium.

If more planning and pre production was done throughout the industry we would be working in a fairer and more stable environment.

Zync - Google's cloud rendering platform

It is common knowledge now that Google offer cloud rendering with their acquisition of Zync. This will hugely change the landscape for Remote VFX studios giving them the scalability and ability to compete with the rendering power of the larger studios.

There are 3 main reasons why I think it is great that Google have purchased Zync; scalability, security, and competitive pricing.

Zync's pricing is per minute, all renderfarms will have to reduce their costings in line with Zync making it much more affordable for smaller studios and individuals. It also makes it much easier to budget for rendering time.

It would be great if Zync offered a tiered subscription model too as this would give artists even more flexibility - as well as giving Zync a regular income!

There is one drawback with most renderfarms - they don't offer Renderman, I would love to know why! Is it down to Pixar having their own on demand service? If so, I feel they will be loosing out in the long run as people will rely on Vray and other renderers much more heavily now as it has the power of Google's servers behind them.

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Fracture FX Key Features video series

I have been using fracture-FX for quite some time now. I was one of the original beta testers.

Over the past couple of weeks I have been helping them by creating some Key Features videos. If you are a keen FX artist and want to do some demolition in Maya you can get a demo of the plug-in here:http://www.fracture-fx.com/fracture_demo.

All of the videos are now finally up! also you cab get 25% off a license of Fracture FX if you send the code words "ICM Studios told me to do it" to contact@fracture-fx.com!

Key Features

Friday, 9 January 2015

Remote VFX is here to stay!

In the last couple of years I have noticed an influx of small independent visual effects studios that specialise in creating stunning visuals for TV, Feature film and commercials in an remote and collaborative working environment.

I'm not saying that big studios days are numbered, it just means that the independent visual effects artist will finally begin to get the recognition that they deserve!

I feel that remote studios will pick up the smaller, indie film projects hopefully bringing a bigger and more diverse selection of films for everyone to watch. The internet and streaming services have helped small/medium budget films get more coverage and hopefully this will mean there will be more work to go around for everyone!

Lower Overheads

Hardware and software has come down in price enough for independent artists to be able to afford the tools to create high quality work from their homes, and personal offices. Coupled with high speed internet connections it has made it more feasible to work independently.

This means independent artists don't have the overheads that the bigger studios have so they can cater to the independent film maker with a small to medium size budget.

How this could benefit independent film makers

A lot of the time directors and producers do not speak directly to the visual effects artists, this can create extra work (and therefore cost more) as the director's vision is not always passed down correctly to the artists creating the visual effects.

I have been lucky enough to work directly with directors and producers on jobs, cutting out the middle men and making communication easier.

The VFX industry is changing!

I am not sure what will happen over the coming years, I personally feel that there will still be large visual effects studios working on the blockbuster film format but there will be an increase of remote VFX houses and artists. This will help independent films get the quality of visual effects they require for their films.

I have recently read a great book that gives some impartial and interesting facts about the VFX industry and the possible future of it!! You can get a copy of it here:http://www.insidevfx.com/

In the video below Michael Cawood and Theory Animation discuss some of the possible ways that on-line collaborations may work in the near future - I believe that were are very close to this being a reality.

One final note, a good friend of mine(Antonio Milo) introduced me to this blog: http://www.allanmckay.com/blog/. Have a listen to the podcasts on there - they are really helpful!

Friday, 17 October 2014

Ambleside - Lake District Nikon D5200 footage

The lake district has some really amazing landscape - perfect location to get some great footage. I recently spent some time there and in my spare time got out and filmed what I saw!

It is even more atmospheric when it is raining and misty! Check out the videos below. All of them have been graded using Adobe Speedgrade and a little helping hand from the Foundry's Nuke!

The only current downside to my Nikon D5200 is I am recording directly to the SD memory card. This means I don't get the full potential out of the camera! Hopefully will get a Atmos ninja in the near future so I can get a better range of colour and 10bit 4:2:2 recording.

Latest update:27/10/14, added in the driving footage - crazy roads!

Monday, 25 August 2014

Lightning VFX Sequence

Iskander Mellakh was hired to produce the lightning VFX on A Touch Of Cloth III. The shots were seen at the end of the part 2! They were included in the teaser clips for the next episode. A full article can be found on our website showing how ICM Studios created the VFX for 4 shots on A Touch Of Cloth III.

Friday, 6 June 2014

A little bit of Depth! Tabby Cat

Luckily Dennis(my tabby cat) was in the mood to have a camera shoved in his face and I managed to get some nice footage of him.
Shot on a Nikon D5200 with an Nikon 18-55mm lens. The focal length was set to 55mm. The ISO was set to 1600.
It was shot using a Eimo DSLR Rig (although I was just propping it on the table!). I should have mounted it on a tripod but I might not have got the footage I wanted at the time!
RV Solo (http://www.tweaksoftware.com/) was used to quickly scrub through and review the footage and Adobe SpeedGrade was used to do the Final Grade.
I am happy with the outcome, however, the use of a tripod and a bit better focusing would be the goal for the next one!
Oh yes, I am still working on this the hanging woman VFX shot. A new plate has been done, just need to matchmove etc first before I put up a new version of the shot. For now, here is a frame from the latest shoot:)

Monday, 14 April 2014

Moon Man Dan Website launched!

ICM Studios has just finished helping Pickled Pepper Productions with the launch of their new website for the first animated episode of Moon Man Dan.

To find out more about Moon Man Dan visit the website here: www.moonmandan.co.uk. To see the episode, I have embeded it below :)