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.