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Wednesday, 25 May 2011 07:51
May 24, 2011

An Open Letter To VFX Artists And The Entertainment Industry At Large

Visual Effects Society: 2.0

As an Honorary Society, VES has led the way in promoting the incredible work of VFX artists but so far no one has stood up to lead the way on the business side of our business. No one has been able to speak out for unrepresented artists and facilities – or the craft as a whole – in any meaningful way.

It should not come as a surprise to anyone that the state of the visual effects industry is unsettled. Artists and visual effects companies are working longer hours for less income, delivering more amazing VFX under ever diminishing schedules, carrying larger financial burdens while others are profiting greatly from our work. As a result, there has been a lot of discussion recently about visual effects and its role in the entertainment industry. Many feel VFX artists are being taken advantage of and many others feel that VFX facilities are operating under unsustainable competitive restraints and profit margins.  There have been calls for the creation of a VFX union to represent artists’ interests while others have pushed to create a trade organization for VFX facilities to better navigate today’s economic complexities.

As globalization intensifies, the process of creating visual effects is becoming more and more commoditized. Many wonder if the current business model for our industry is sustainable over the long term. Indeed, multiplying blogs are questioning why artists are forced to work crazy overtime hours for weeks or months on end without health benefits and VFX facilities are forced to take on shows at a loss just to keep their pipelines going and their doors open (they hope).

As good as we are at creating and manipulating amazing and ground breaking images, VFX professionals have done a terrible job of marketing ourselves to the business side of the industry. In short, no one has been able to harness the collective power of our efforts, talents, and passions into a strong, unified voice representing the industry as a whole.  

VES may not have the power of collective bargaining, but we do have the power of a voice that’s 2,400 artists strong in 23 countries -- and the VES Board of Directors has decided that now is the time to use it.  We are the only viable organization that can speak to the needs and concerns of everyone involved in VFX to meet the challenges of a changing global industry and our place within it.

The work we do helps a lot of people make a lot of money, but it’s not being shared on an equal basis, nor is the respect that’s due us, especially considering that 44 of the top 50 films of all time are visual effects driven (

For VFX ARTISTS (NOT computer geeks, NOT nerds), we do not receive the kind of respect that measures up to the role visual effects plays in the bottom line. And that’s expressed in a number of very obvious ways:
  • Credits – we are frequently listed incompletely and below where we should be in the crawl.
  • Benefits – in the US, you likely do not have ready access to health care. Or a vision plan. Or a pension plan. Outside the US, unless you’re a citizen of a country with national health care, you likely do not have health care coverage either. Or have the ability to build hours for your pension. Or are eligible to receive residuals. On a UNION show we are the ONLY department that is not union and therefore not receiving the same benefits as everyone else on the set.
  • Working conditions – if you are a freelancer (it’s generally agreed that almost half of all visual effects workers are freelancers), because you are not covered by collective bargaining, you may be forced to work 70 – 100 hour weeks for months on end in order to meet a delivery date. And for that privilege (in the U.S.) you will also likely be considered an Independent Contractor and have to file a 1099 – and then pay the employer’s share of the tax contribution.
Many small to medium-sized VFX companies around the world are struggling to survive (or have gone out of business – (RIP Café FX, Asylum, Illusion Arts and many others). By now almost everyone in the industry is familiar with the quote from a few years ago by an unidentified studio executive that if he ‘didn’t put at least one VFX company out of business on a show, he wasn’t doing his job.’

The concern exists at every level of the VFX chain -- artist, facility and studio – how the impact of a “Fix” would  affect the industry. Would it drive work elsewhere? Would it cut into the dwindling profit margins of VFX companies and put them out of business?  Would it make VFX artists unhireable?

No matter one’s perspective, the interests of VFX artists can no longer be ignored.

In the coming weeks and months, VES will shine a spotlight on the issues facing the artists, facilities and studios by way of editorial pieces in the trades and VFX blogs, virtual Town Hall meetings, a VFX Artists’ Bill of Rights and a VFX CEO’s Forum (for the companies that actually provide the jobs that everyone is working so hard to safeguard).

There are solutions and we will find them.

We want the studios to make a respectable profit. We want facilities to survive and thrive in this ever changing fiscal environment. And we want artists to have high quality jobs with the commensurate amount of respect for the work they do on a daily basis.  Therefore, VES will take the lead by organizing meetings with all participants in our industry in which we will make sure that all the issues discussed above are put on the table.

We are the VES and the time to step up has arrived. VES 2.0 is here and ready to lead.

If you’d like to share a comment with us you can contact us at either or through the leadership forum on the VES website at:

Stay tuned!

Eric Roth
VES Executive Director

Also please visit and use the VES Forums

augmented reality
Tuesday, 24 May 2011 20:13

Read This QR Code Art For Videos of the Musicians Whose Faces Make Up the Art

Kat Hannaford As well as being able to compare prices of stuff in the shops with a quick scan of the barcode/QR code, you can create artworks, as artist Scott Blake has shown with his series of famous faces.

A big artwork of Elvis' face comprised of QR codes can be read by a smartphone, linking the user to music by the one and only Mr. Presley. Blake also uses other types of barcodes for his famous faces—for example, Bruce Lee and Marilyn Monroe are made up of barcodes from DVDs of their movies, and Oprah's beaming face is created by ISBN barcodes from the Oprah book club. A message about commoditizing celebrities, or just a really neat art idea? [Scott Blake via Illusion via DudeCraft]

This video below shows what happens when you scan one of the QR codes

green lantern pics
Tuesday, 24 May 2011 20:08
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Learning is half the battle...even for a Green Lantern
Motion Capture Oscar Debate
Tuesday, 24 May 2011 20:03

AMPAS amended its rules in 2010 to address motion capture. In addition to "Avatar," the technique has been used on films including "Polar Express," "Happy Feet" and the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy. To make these films, actors wear a body suit with markers, and cameras record their movements. Then visual effects artists and animators add to the actor's performance.

"Motion capture by itself is not an animation technique," the academy rules stipulate. "In addition, a significant number of the major characters must be animated, and animation must figure in no less than 75% of the picture’s running time."

"Tintin" relies on motion capture performances for most of its major characters, including Tintin, played by Jamie Bell, a pirate (Daniel Craig) and a pair of bumbling detectives (Simon Pegg and Nick Frost). But animators are working with those performances -- Pegg and Frost, for instance, who are physical opposites in real life, play twins.

"If it was intended to simply be a copy of a live actor’s work, then we would not consider it animation," Kroyer said. "At the moment, we have not determined a way to make that decision. It lies with the intention of the director."

In the case of "Avatar," Cameron chose to campaign his film, which relied on such actors as Zoe Saldana and Sam Worthington and on animators at Weta Digital to create its tall, blue characters, as live action.

By calling "Tintin" animated, Spielberg, who will also have the live action film "War Horse" in awards contention this year, is stepping into an industry debate about the motion capture technique.

In 2006, the motion capture movie "Happy Feet" won the animated feature Oscar, inspiring a backlash against the technique among animators who consider it either disempowering or cheating. The credits of the Pixar movie "Ratatouille," released the following year, included the prickly disclaimer: "Our Quality Assurance Guarantee: 100% Genuine Animation! No motion capture or any other performance shortcuts were used in the production of this film."

"You have opinions that run the entire gamut," said Kroyer. "You have people who are prophets of motion capture  and other people who say it’s heresy and I will never use it. I think mo-cap is as legitimate a tool as anything for making films, but it’s not the kind of animation we always did."

The motion capture Oscar debate is not likely to go away any time soon -- Jackson's "The Hobbit: Part 1," which will rely on the technique for some characters, is due in 2012, a second "Tintin" movie is currently slated for 2013 and "Avatar 2" is coming in 2014.

tintin teaser
Wednesday, 18 May 2011 21:15

Is Tintin Lost in the Uncanny Valley?

Brian Barrett You guys, you guys! The first trailer for the Steven Spielberg/Peter Jackson Tintin animated cinema spectacular is here! But while it's supposedly a gigantic step forward in motion capture technology, I can't help but notice something's missing. Something important.

As hyper-real as Tintin and Thomson and Thompson and that plane crash (my goodness!) look from a distance, we only get one brief close-up of a face. And, more forebodingly, we never get to see anyone actually, you know, talk. This makes me nervous! It's always been the eyes and the mouth that make motion capture people seem like freakish plasticine facsimiles. And you, The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn trailer, you are hiding those things from us.

click the link below to

Watch the new tintin trailer...


combat simulator takes augmented reality to new, awesome levels
Wednesday, 20 April 2011 16:41

Cubic Corporation is a defense contractor that's been kicking around in some form or another since the early days of the Cold War, although you're more likely to know them as the operator of the New York City MetroCard system. What brings 'em to our space, you ask? Another cutting edge wargadget, of course! Indeed, the company has just been contracted to supply 27 of its COMBATREDI training systems to the Florida Army National Guard (to the tune of $4.8 million). The combat simulator features a hi-def, helmet mounted OLED video display for a 60 x 45-degree field of view, an integrated 3D stereo headset for sound, and a wireless "surrogate" rifle that performs like a real one, right down to the need for fresh magazines and various firing modes. The user's movements are tracked by way of a REDITAC tactical computer worn on the back, with a suite of sensors that can also determine where he's looking, and whether he's standing, kneeling, or lying on the ground. Of course, the company is selling this as the most realistic way to train our troops yet, although we can see it for what it really is: possibly the most bad-ass first-person shooter ever.

ORLANDO, Florida - May 17, 2010 - Cubic's Simulation Systems Division, a defense systems unit of Cubic Corporation (NYSE: CUB), has been awarded a contract valued at approximately $4.8 million to supply 27 of its COMBATREDI systems to the Florida Army National Guard, along with four 180-degree Warrior Skills Trainers (WST), a vehicle trainer that works with COMBATREDI. The award represents Cubic's first sale of the new COMBATREDI system, which immerses users in a highly realistic 360-degree "virtual reality" environment.

COMBATREDI is a new approach for Cubic, its first completely tetherless, user-worn virtual training system. It features a high-definition helmet-mounted OLED video display that delivers game-quality graphics with a 60-by-45-degree field of view, and an integrated 3D stereo headset for sound effects. Trainees are able to move through a 360-degree virtual environment, including entering buildings, as if it were real. The user carries a realistic wireless "surrogate" rifle that performs like a real one, requiring things like magazine changes and selecting the correct firing mode to operate correctly.

Cubic introduced the new system to potential military users late last year.

"Cubic is pleased that it hasn't taken long for the groundbreaking characteristics of COMBATREDI to be recognized by the user community," said Tony Padgett, Immersive Product Line Manager for Cubic Simulation Systems in Orlando. "COMBATREDI fully immerses trainees into the virtual environment. This is a whole new way to train the dismounted soldier."

Padgett said COMBATREDI allows individual soldiers to be trained almost anywhere, incorporating virtually limitless scenarios without the need for dedicated facilities.

The WST system also being delivered to the Florida Army National Guard projects realistic high-fidelity scenes on large screens using the Virtual Battle Space 2 (VBS2) engine. This system is in use in multiple U.S. Army locations
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