Mental Roy on feature creep
Roy thinks that everyone in the VFX industry is doing a great job. And he’s not at all happy about it
As Radiohead so succinctly sang – just before they disappeared up their own arses and started recording entire concept albums based around the mating rituals of the lesser spotted flying snowfish – “you do it to yourself, you do”. Or, to put it another way, we in the visual effects industry haven’t half made a rod for our own back.
Think about it. What happens every time we get a bigger rendering farm, more processing welly or a new tool to streamline the whole godforsaken process of turning innumerable mouse clicks into 4K, stereoscopic gold? What we should be doing is turning out work to the same old standard, then clocking off early and using the extra time to discover first-hand what daylight really looks like. But no, instead we faff around, increasing the complexity and quality of the work until all speed benefits are completely and utterly negated.
It’s not as if anybody further up the food chain even offers any additional praise, much less a pay rise or sexual favours. And why should they? It’s highly unlikely they asked for the extra bells and whistles in the first place. But you can be damn sure they’ll demand them next time around.
Going the extra mile when it’s uncalled for is bad enough, but even more damaging is the way we all collectively bow to pressure from people who have the audacity to squeeze every last ounce of blood, sweat and tears from a studio they’ve hand-picked solely on the basis of its financial desperation and geographical location (essential for those all-important tax incentives).
In any other service industry, the creative types always sail generously over deadline and over budget. For one thing, it sticks it to The Man. And, more importantly, they realise that demonstrating the ability to come in under budget and on time would be counter-productive: next time around they’d be asked to do the same or better work with less money and less time. Hell, I’ve submitted this article three days late and am charging 3D World double my usual fee, just to demonstrate how it’s supposed to work.
But the visual effects industry? It just never learns. Everybody loves to trot out the same old theory that everything went pear-shaped after Steven Spielberg personally wired electrodes to the nether regions of VFX grunts to get the CG work for War of the Worlds completed in a mere 12 weeks. But truth be told, the visual effects industry has always acted like the ugly girl at the prom – so grateful to get any kind of attention from Hollywood that we let them get past third base without so much as the promise of a phone call the next day. Ever wonder why VFX supervisors always look so uncomfortable at the Oscars? They’re forever waiting for a team of security guards to swoop in and drag them away from Brad, Angelina and all the real movie industry types.
What’s needed is a return to the days when the movie industry didn’t have quite so much confidence in visual effects. By sticking CGI front and centre in their movies, directors have piled on the pressure to unbearable levels. Critics love to harp on about the digital dinosaurs in Jurassic Park being as good, if not better, than those in the current crop of creature features. But they’re more impressive because they were used sparingly. The Spielberg of 1993 knew that less really was more – a lesson he’d learned the hard way when making Jaws and discovering that lingering shots of a plastic shark wouldn’t frighten a small child.
Luckily, I’ve got a plan. If we all just agree to start collectively underperforming, then I think we might be able to turn back the clock. Think about it: if the quality dips just a small amount with every show, the money men won’t spot what we’re up to, while the directors will react subconsciously by slowly but surely paring back the CG. Like the apocryphal frog in the pan of slowly heating water, Hollywood will only realise something is up when it’s too late. And by then we’ll all be working 30-hour weeks, enjoying extended liquid lunches, and deciding when and if we want to take their calls.
Alternatively, you might want to consider a more forgiving creative field, like the music industry. I hear there’s currently a lot of demand for musicians who can play the Siberian arse lute. Radiohead must be getting ready for another world tour…
About the author
Mental Roy has been lurking on the fringes of the 3D industry for years – usually fringes that contain pubs. We could tell you his real name, but then we’d have to kill you
on Tuesday, August 21st, 2012 at 11:23 am under Features, Industry, Opinion.
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Tags: Hollywood, VFX