Is transparency beneficial when it leads to future loss of work?
Technological advancements are shared not only to further the field. With global outsourcing, it’s also a necessity in order to collaborate effectively with those on the other side of the world. But in the spirit of sharing, this democratization of work capability and workload is a fast track to loss of computer graphics jobs.
In a Siggraph 2013 Anaheim press luncheon conducted by Jon Peddie Research, the issue of democratization and globalization was explored. One of the main issues was that California artists and technology companies are being pushed out of the equation, and not in a peaceful or graceful manner.
That was a contention made by Michael Romey of Zoic studios. Romey also says that many artists enjoy the competitive nature. To gain ground, they seek to improve on efficiency as well as on technology and artist merits.
The Computer Graphics Company
Zoic studios is responsible for work on Firefly, Mad Men, Once Upon a Time, Falling Skies, True Blood, V, Fringe, District 9, Zombieland and, most recently, The Twilight Saga’s Breaking Dawn. Romey said that for each episode 350-450 movie FX are used for OUAT. With a production and delivery schedule of 2 weeks for each of the 22 episodes, the wizards at Zoic have had to find a way to make artists more artistic by way of developing an automated system. Efficiency is key in order to service more shots in less amount of time.
Zoic has built a location app which allows the artistic crew to frame a shot remotely. Essentially a previz, a local crew can be in place before the director and DP even get there. The app is already in use, and ever efficient, Zoic thought to take it one step further. They’ll utilize those virtual sets to build a game.
The Effect of Globalization
Joe Herman, long time 3D animator, compositor, visual effects artist and production and post production specialist, mentioned that previously artists went to the office to utilize equipment not available anywhere else.
These days with the cloud, sophisticated color grading and composition tools are all available remotely. Maxon’s Cineware (as profiled at the Siggraph 2013 Maxon press luncheon) allows workload dispersal over networked computers. Task allocation can be specified to user and computer as can limitations to both access and aspects of a project. And no longer do files have to be FedEx’d. Technology has advanced such that an artist working alone in his bedroom can appear as a huge company.
The Upper Hand
But the ability to run a production lies in experience. This is an asset that technology cannot challenge-yet. Still, the home-based artists can undercut bids from the larger companies. Though the smaller entity’s inexperience may wind up costing more to the outsourcer, the damage has already been done.
In the computer graphics industry, openness is vital. But companies may soon find that that openness leaves them out of the picture.