iPlayer Radio What's New?

Slices Of Pi

Friday 1 March 2013, 15:03

Mark Kermode Mark Kermode

There was a protest by visual effects artists going on outside this year's Academy Awards ceremony. But what were they demonstrating about and do they have a point?

In order to see this content you need to have both Javascript enabled and Flash Installed. Visit BBC Webwise for full instructions. If you're reading via RSS, you'll need to visit the blog to access this content

Related Content

Kermode Uncut: 3D Alive or Dead

Kermode Uncut: Prometheus 2D v 3D


Jump to comments pagination
  • rate this

    Comment number 41.

    The creative industry as a whole seems to be run like this from vfx to the games industry and I hope this action being taken means better working conditions for all artists and brings more attention to the people in the games industry where we have the same issues for years. I have never understood why artists are treated like this without any kind of stability or benefits that would be in most other industries. Considering the immense amounts of money that the Hollywood and games industry studios make , and were talking billions, of the back of the talent of these artists I think we all deserve a lot more respect

  • rate this

    Comment number 42.

    1. No, I'd not heard of it.

    2. Yes, they have a case. They need to unionise.

  • rate this

    Comment number 43.

    Too many directors don't know how to work with VFX and are too far removed from the vendors. In many cases it is really nothing more than a shopping list they go through. A shopping list that can be 50% of the film. The layers of management between the artists and the director is crazy. The vfx process could be incredibly streamlined and improved if only the directors would talk directly, and work directly with the people doing most of his or her film.

    I also wish the public would understand our work better. The big explosions are the obvious effects in a film but there is a lot more that is unnoticed. Fixing bad plates (many of them simply shot and lit terribly), set replacement and set extensions, digital doubles, wire removal, grading, etc.

  • rate this

    Comment number 44.

    It's so touching to hear you voice a sympathetic opinion on this subject Mark. Opinions on visual effects all too often get reduced to the assumption that there is a man pushing the 'before and after' button. I regularly listen to you while toiling away and it's nice to know you are aware of and appreciate the strife our industry is in.

  • rate this

    Comment number 45.

    I am so glad Dr K took this issue on! I work in a related industry for a hybrid production company (we do film and digital production, and often work with post houses in the UK and US). Our industry faces many similar problems, but I think the kicker here is the distribution of profit - Life of Pi has now grossed over $592,918,625 worldwide, so it's hard to imagine what kind of deal Rhythm & Hughes must have signed to now be filing for bankruptcy. Having said that, I wonder if some of the big VFX houses, who have large setups in India where they farm out a bunch of work, haven't partly contributed to the problem? Or maybe that was just a financial necessity under the circumstances. I couldn't find anyone in the industry to explain that to me.

  • rate this

    Comment number 46.

    I'd heard about it thanks to Slashfilms podcast that had full coverage of it and a disussion much like your post mark. I feel their pain. Unionize.

  • rate this

    Comment number 47.

    Let me put this into perspective ...

    Man works in an office, 50% of his colleagues are made redundant, he doesn't get a pay rise and is asked to take 5 days of unpaid holiday each year, and he's now doing twice as much work.

    This is happening in every single industry across the western world.

    These VFX guys have had it great for a long time and now finally they are starting to feel the pinch that the rest of us working folk are.

    If the issue is as cut and dry as the good Dr. has portrayed it then I have no sympathy for them. If there is another issue that isn't described in this vlog then I withdrawn my comments.

  • rate this

    Comment number 48.

    I once made a short film and did the fx myself because I couldn't afford to hire an VFX house. It took about a 1000 hours of my life. It's hard work, and painfully slow.

    However, I don't think VFX artists should be protected in any way. If you're involved in filmmaking, then you live from job to job. Suck it up. If you want 'recognition' on top of that, then earn it, don't cry about it. It's embarrasing.

    I remember Rob Bottin, who made a name for himself doing FX better than everybody else. And Jim Henson, who made creatures only he could make. And HR Geiger, who never suffered from a lack of recognition.

    You just have to be better. That's hard with computers, because if your main tools are After Effects or Photoshop, then you can't be surprised when kids and amateurs do it better or faster in their spare time.

    Have you ever heard your filmmaking hero (whoever that may be) whine on about what they 'deserve'? I doubt it. Creative people become legends by upping their game.

  • rate this

    Comment number 49.

    Unionisation/striking would be a brilliant move for the VFX companies to make their point. I do understand that their work is as much what isn't noticed as what is thrust right in your face (cheers Mr Bay), thus rendering them a HUGE part of the teams that take credit for props/sets/lighting/photography but due to their anonymity, easier to ignore or commoditise as their work becomes ingrained into every facet of movie making, bar the catering.
    Trouble with unionising, you do have your cheap outsourcing to Asia, then you have the guy who made Monsters on his laptop and used "off the shelf" CGI to achieve his vision. I have an app (made by JJ Abrahms' company) on my phone that can add VFX aliens bursting out of things or a robot blowing stuff up if you frame it right. Like someone else said, there are kids learning their craft on freely available Adobe software in their spare time. Perhaps this protest has just come too late and they should have shouted whilst they were still masters of the art...

  • rate this

    Comment number 50.

    I myself dabble in computer modelling and animation. As such I worship the likes of ILM, Pixar, WETA as gods. What they accomplish is true movie magic; so much of what they do brings a director's vision to life in ways that couldn't be achieved by any other method. You get a feel for the work that goes in to this craft when you realise that every 24 frames of AVATAR took 2400 hours to render; the stunning CGI for Danny Boyle's SUNSHINE was done by a small company of no more than 12 people, and took a year to render. And yes the TRANSFORMERS films are utter crap, but think about the artistic and technical talent it takes to bring those 'robots hitting each other' to life. Whatever you may think of these films, artistically, you must always appreciate and acknowledge the work that these 'wizards' do. It's a form of alchemy, done with complex computer languages few understand, and achieved using tools only the few can master. That's why my hat goes off to all of you, whoever and wherever you are, in the visual effects business. You are indeed under-appreciated, and under paid. But I don't know what the solution is, other than a global strike, akin to what Hollywood writers did a while back? What I do know is, sadly, like everything else, their work *will* be shipped wherever it's cheapest. It seems inevitable, in this increasingly shrinking world.

  • rate this

    Comment number 51.

    The VFX people on Life of Pi got more than their just desserts from the Academy, because the movie was awarded best cinematography when almost all of the movie was enhanced or created with computers. Then again, perhaps that says something about academy voters, who after awarding the cinematography prize to Avatar and now Life of Pi, do not appear to know what cinematography is.

  • rate this

    Comment number 52.

    Hi Mark,
    This blog got me thinking that your 5Live guest spots are heavily actor/director dominated. It would be fascinating to get a technical professional, e.g. a visual effects employee from Life of Pi, onto the programme to shed light on other parts of the finished product which usually receive very little coverage but are often more interesting than the insight or anecdotes of actors.

  • rate this

    Comment number 53.

    That's a good call, you (good doctor) spent the best part of praising "The best DP in the business, Wally Pfister" every time TDKR was mentioned, so put your money where your mouth is and get him on - he is making his directorial debut soon so that would be an ideal time.

    Oh and perhaps explain what a DP is, as it appears to have more than one meaning as far as certain films go :o

  • rate this

    Comment number 54.

    As much as I dislike the use of CGI and digital effects for their lack of spectacle and visual entertainment, I do believe the artists responsible for the effects work in films such as "Life of Pi" deserve much better than what they are getting. When these large film executives say they'll just "go somewhere else", it really worries me. Film and cinema today seems to just be a way to make money and not the way of making people enlightened, informed, entertained etc as it was in days gone by. As soon as film and cinema becomes purely a money making scheme and the creativity of individual directors, editors, effects artists etc goes, then cinema as a whole, will be ruined.


Page 3 of 3

This entry is now closed for comments

Share this page

More Posts

Oscars - Right Or Wrong?

Tuesday 26 February 2013, 12:24

Movie Heaven

Tuesday 5 March 2013, 14:52

About this Blog

Outspoken, opinionated and never lost for words, Mark is the UK's leading film critic.

This twice-weekly video blog is the place where he airs his personal views on the things that most fire him up about cinema - and invites you to give your own opinions.

Blog Updates

Stay updated with the latest posts from the blog.

Subscribe using:

What are feeds?