Editorial: Digital Effects Australian Style - Publication: Australian Creative Magazine 10/07 (LA correspondent) Back to Editorials
Digital Effects Australian Style
Like many aspects of the global film industry, Australian effects houses are holding their own. Defying big budget operators and offering boutique expertise and innovation Australian companies have an increasingly influential role in the production of many US spawned commercial films.
Many industry insiders believe the days of “generalists,” are gone, and there is now an accent on specialized skills over budget packages. According to Mike Hollands CEO of Act3animation, one of the country’s leading effects houses “There's more discrimination now, I think, than there once was, when everything was price driven. Too many people have been burned by cheap studios. What clients look for now is "what's your main value add"?
Shops who claim to do everything well are not cutting the mustard anymore. In our case it CG character animation. Others specialize in particular effects areas, water, explosions, or in putting things together, compositing, integration. There's more distinction these days,”
Established in 1973, now with a staff of 75 Australian effects house Iloura has worked on a range of high profile features, many the brainchild of major US movie houses, including early nineties classics such as Mission Impossible, Moby Dick and Noah’s Ark
Pamela Hammond, spokesperson for Iloura believes Australia has an edge over US competitors in terms of both cost and skill set Hammonds says that Australian companies are more aligned to a smaller “cottage,” industry environment.
This sees smaller groups of highly skilled specialist working on jobs, rather than bigger teams, which ultimately spells cost savings. “ We offer a more personalized approach than bigger US companies, though expertise is not necessarily cheaper in Australia ,” Hammond says
More recently the company has done CGI effects on the likes of Seven Swords, Flying daggers , US cable Tv show Nightmare Dreamscapes, b and the forthcoming classic Where The Wild Things Are, overseen by renowned director Spike Jonze.
Asked how can US companies compete against the emergence of offshore counter[parts in say China , India , Australia and Canada, Mike Hollands of Act3animation believes the price issue is becoming less significant. “Marginal is right. At the moment price advantage come more from government subsidies and the lower wage scales here in the land of Oz. The real price competition is coming from China , India . You might see something in the former Soviet Union, who knows. The skill set is smaller there, but none of us can beat the prices.”
The new production subsidies in Australia will, we all hope, regenerate the Australian film industry. The strings that tie those subsidies to the use of local suppliers are important though. The Australian industry will try to go cheaper if they can, just like anyone else.
In future years Elzinga says there will be continual pressure of visual effects to differentiate films at the high end. “The techniques that are used in film visual effects will make their way to HD episodic production (such as those by HBO) There will be a continued focus on animated films as a medium in its own right. Visual Effects will make its way further in to the mainstream and independent films as costs come down.”
On the US front, Joshua Saeta Lead Compositing TD Rhythm & Hues Marina Del Rey, CA says outsourcing to “offshore,” entities can present problems. “ Communication if by far the key to great FX. When you want to create incredible work nothing is more critical than having constant communication. Whether it’s from Animation, Technical animation, Paint, roto, or lighting to comp, everyone has to be on the same page all the time.”
“The effects business is a unique industry in that a major client will use several different companies simultaneously, it really is governed by expertise, I don’t think it’s a matter of who is cheaper. Regardless of country all about expertise now price differences are nominal and there’s really no penny pinching when it comes to a feature film.”
Tim Enstice, spokesperson for US based effects specialist Digital Domain believes the industry isn’t driven by location. “Its about pioneering new technology. While there is a plethora of proprietary software out there in the marketplace, this area is about constantly emerging tools and solutions often driven by creativity and innovation more than anything else, and that process can start anywhere in the world.
Enstice added that IT companies should watch the computer-generated special-effects industry, because it is pushing hardware and software as far as they can go.
"The process is becoming creative," Enstice said. "I'm really starting to see creative people crafting products--and they don't need to know programming to do so. What they care about is, `Can I make Bob laugh' or `Can I make Bob cry.'"
Written by Craig Stephens