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Old 09-12-2012, 01:42 PM   #1
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Could CG companies change their bidding to "Billable hours" : Can they?

Inspired by this post by Dave Rand:

"He used to work in construction and did quite well and couldn't fathom how VFX bidding worked. If you are building a skyscraper, they don't give you a drawing on a napkin and say 'How much can you do it for?"


Thanks for highlighting this topic. I was actually the FX Lead at Meteor and often use the drawing on a napkin analogy. I come from a background in Finance and Construction with an education in fine arts. The world of bidding in VFX at first was amusing to me as I could not believe people took it seriously, then I saw how it would rule my life when as a vfx artist. I was not only at the bottom of the credit list but at the bottom of the creditors list.

http://playbackonline.ca/2008/07/21/meteor-20080721/

In the world of construction they would laugh at us. What's happened is the greatest trick ever employed in movie making. This has been imposed on our vendors and made possible only by our complete lack of leverage. No one on the highly organized set bids anything, it's all billable hours, that is why the director is there THE WHOLE TIME DIRECTING and rarely present at our shops. Why should they be...they can just say

"Do it over"

for the same price

While they stay poolside waiting for the black box to spoon feed them their dailies on a bi weekly basis, or even worse. When we Do it over it's not the same as another take, not when it comes to the costs.

It's all a matter of taste and the taste of one person, the director (usually), but in the vacuum of creative leadership you'll have your lead, your cg supervisor, you vfx supervisor, the janitor, whoever, giving you direction, spinning you up to version 300 on a puff of smoke or a spark....and all on the VFX shop's dime....until the shop is paying for the movie.....and without even an executive producer credit.....but just a swift kick in the ass.

Only when bidding is replaced by billable hours and the focus the set gets (because for the big VFX films WE ARE THE SET) will shops begin to get what they deserve ..PROFIT. Otherwise their only course is to become studios themselves. We've certainly seen there are forces at play that will do everything they can to not let that happen for fear of diluting their stronghold on consent and distribution subjecting the world to yet another prequel or mashup rather than fresh new ideas.

Sadly the vfx artist, being the bearer of zero leverage, other than their individual, yet divided, awesomeness, are scraped off the table like crumbs by people who have no clue that they are making and growing a creative dustbowl in the most important renaissance art story telling, education, and communication of our time, hurting the studios, their product, and the lives of thousands. Is History repeating itself? Is this all we know?

In a letter to his father, whom he had written from Florence asking for money, he wrote:
"I lead a miserable existence. I live wearied by stupendous labours and beset
by a thousand anxieties. And thus have I lived for some fifteen years
(as an artist) and never an hour's happiness have I had."



What do you guys think?
Looking forward to your comments and ideas.

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Old 09-12-2012, 01:53 PM   #2
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Personally I think its a great Idea but I think the supply vs demand in that industry is a lot more favorable
 
Old 09-12-2012, 03:10 PM   #3
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Quote:
"Sadly the vfx artist, being the bearer of zero leverage, other than their individual, yet divided, awesomeness, are scraped off the table like crumbs by people who have no clue that they are making and growing a creative dustbowl in the most important renaissance art story telling, education, and communication of our time,"


Seriously Mate??
I participated in a discussion on another "CG art" web site where artists were posting what was IMHO Hyperbole similar to what I have underlined in the above quote

Some on that other forum even went to the extreme of suggesting that:
"were it not for artist's we would still be living in caves etc."

While I dont see this level of self aggrandizement here( yet) what I do see*from some** is puzzling to me at least.

Some wise Fellow whose user name escapes me (Leosh??) said on this very forum,
the following ( paraphrasing):
Quote:
We do NOT produce anything truly vital to mankind,
nothing that can be eaten ,lived in or worn on the body for warmth its all just a bit of entertainment.
My company Just uploaded our Demo Reel but right now there may be another shop who will get a gig we did not get simply someone liked their reel better"


This is not to suggest that we all quit and become Carpenters or Winter Apparrel makers.
but it seems that a bit of a reality check might be in order.

"Visual Art is a communication Medium"
they all say.
Yes it is.. but not a vital one to peoples lives
this prattling on about how people are so "clueless "about how vital we are to their lives is just Bloody silly IMHO

People know exactly how important a comp artist or TD who worked on "Batman" is to their life and the harsh answer is ..not very.

No one is using VFX movies or "Art"in general to educate themselves in Economics, Business,relationships,health or politics etc

its all just a bit of fleeting fun.

Cheers
 
Old 09-12-2012, 03:17 PM   #4
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Vendors get jobs based on bids which they've drawn up with a number of factors taken into account: an estimate of how much time it'll take to get things done, what kind of staff will need to put on the project (both in numbers and levels of experience), etc plus there's invariably going to be some adjustments made for the sake of competitiveness to give them an edge. Point is that the bid already takes timeframes into account - sure, these timeframes may not work out in the end but it would be impossible to estimate things perfectly every time.

I've actually worked on quite a few shows in the past where stuff ended up taking longer than anticipated and actually ended up being re-bid to the client. So while not a billable hour situation, in the end the client did pay for all the changes.

You're not going to get rid of the bidding process; that's a fundamental way in which work is going to get awarded in a competitive creative industry. And since time estimates are a crucial element of bids, traditional billable hours in the conventional sense are essentially incompatible with the system.
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Old 09-12-2012, 03:32 PM   #5
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This seems like something that can be fixed by including a set number of "revisions" or what ever you want to call it.
If the client wants to revise it more then what's in the contract, you bill him on each extra revision.

Seems like a better way to please everyone and not change the standard billing format that clients are use to.
 
Old 09-12-2012, 04:40 PM   #6
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If you think it through, it's not that easy.
Imagine a job a client pays on a hourly base.
The studio goes overboard, adds more details than the client is willing to pay. Or even worse, the client just doesn't believe it took that long. Maybe he's even right, it could have been done faster.
Now what? The client will essentially end up bringing in his own Supervisor and probably Producer to run the show. So he exactly knows where his money ends up. Now imagine a studio where the "top guys" are set by the client, with zero interests to the studio or the artists, just trying to get the most bang for the buck. Much worse situation.
The way it is right now can work: the client decides on a budget, the studio tries to get the things done the client wants, if he wants more, or acts counterproductive, re bill.
The actual problem is, that the budgets are too small.
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Old 09-12-2012, 06:21 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by THX1311
Seriously Mate??

Easy now THX.
He's not talking about in the grand scheme of things. He's just speaking in terms of the work done, albeit in a very grandiose way. And if a film grosses $200M surely there's enough for everyone to get paid fairly.

The problem with billable hours is this is project based work. Project based work is always done on bid. I don't think that will change. As Danylyon said, the budgets are too small.
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Old 09-12-2012, 06:34 PM   #8
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Sh!t rolls down hill.

We're all at the end of the chain, from the Movie studio execs, to directors, to actors, if you're a compositor you're pretty much the last link in the chain. Isn't all the money spent upfront on big name writers/actors, re-writes, licensing fees, etc... and oh yeah we need to pay for vfx too.

Nothing is ever going to change unless it comes from the top -> down (like a bigger starting budget), or unless that last link in the chain(vfx) shows everyone up top how vital they are via a strike, which will never happen.
 
Old 09-12-2012, 06:50 PM   #9
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Also Deadline orient projects are not "open ended " Like for example legal representation by an advocate or Firm where billable hours is a must.

Its can be difficult situation at times.
and a delicate "dance"

I dont have any real solutions for big/medum shops but for us Freelancers there are ways to "discourage" clients from multiple frivolous, piecemeal changes and reduce your hours spent on the work if you know they have a hard delivery Date pending.

I have been guilty of intentionally "extending" the turn around times on such changes

I did it with a recent Character animation job for an Indie film

At one point I was only opening the C4D project file once every thirty Days to just make a five minute Change and render out a low res clip for vimeo.

After a while the Director became way more "decisive"


Cheers
 
Old 09-12-2012, 07:12 PM   #10
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Have the owners of any VFX shops ever taken a business course?

Or is everyone so preoccupied to work for prestige that they forget to bill for new shots or re-bid for unforseen circumstances?

Do VFX shops even charge render time that the computers spend rendering elements?
 
Old 09-12-2012, 07:13 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by THX1311
Seriously Mate??
I participated in a discussion on another "CG art" web site where artists were posting what was IMHO Hyperbole similar to what I have underlined in the above quote

Some on that other forum even went to the extreme of suggesting that:
"were it not for artist's we would still be living in caves etc."

While I dont see this level of self aggrandizement here( yet) what I do see*from some** is puzzling to me at least.

Some wise Fellow whose user name escapes me (Leosh??) said on this very forum,
the following ( paraphrasing):


This is not to suggest that we all quit and become Carpenters or Winter Apparrel makers.
but it seems that a bit of a reality check might be in order.

"Visual Art is a communication Medium"
they all say.
Yes it is.. but not a vital one to peoples lives
this prattling on about how people are so "clueless "about how vital we are to their lives is just Bloody silly IMHO

People know exactly how important a comp artist or TD who worked on "Batman" is to their life and the harsh answer is ..not very.

No one is using VFX movies or "Art"in general to educate themselves in Economics, Business,relationships,health or politics etc

its all just a bit of fleeting fun.

Cheers


While this used to be true, art now drives many other industries. Actually art runs a good portion of the economy. From advertising to technology and engineering. anywhere you go you are besieged by advertisement. There's a constant struggle to capture the consumers attention, be it with a clever line or a clever image. It is all art related. From what I read, to achieve the astonishing feet of avatar new tech had to be invented. People are striving to augment reality as much as they can, which without art would be a futile endeavor. It is because art itself evolved from what it used to be, cgi has brought a whole new playing field to the world and because of it we enjoy a much richer world.

I strongly disagree with your statement because while what you said is true in Renaissance, it simply no longer applies today.
 
Old 09-12-2012, 07:42 PM   #12
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Quote:
"art now drives many other industries. Actually art runs a good portion of the economy. From advertising to technology and engineering. anywhere you go you are besieged by advertisement. There's a constant struggle to capture the consumers attention, be it with a clever line or a clever image. It is all art related."


Must disagree Mate
Art does not "run" farming,commodity prices
the Military weapons industry
or the rate of interest on bonds purchased (now without limit) by the ECB or U.S. Federal Reserve
These things are what affect the live of humans on this planet the most

the rest is just distracting eye candy

Cheers
 
Old 09-12-2012, 07:49 PM   #13
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Just like Leigh said, all of these factors are already present in any bid. Even outsourcing companies in China and India are presently factoring in costs to iterate on assets, initial ramp up time, pipeline/workflow setup expenses, hardware/software expenses, etc.

The original article is interesting in how billable hours is mentioned for being use in construction. However, I grew up with a construction background myself and have never heard of any jobs being bid out in this way (and neither has my grandfather who did this for a living). Perhaps architecture works like this, but construction itself is presented as a set bid amount just like VFX and games uses. The only difference in construction is that multiple companies may give sub-bids that comprise labor and materials costs seperately (you hire labor from one firm and materials from another).

In my opinion, the problem with VFX at the moment is that the effects houses have underbid one another so badly that there are no margins left to work with. As studios keep closing, I expect we will hit a critical mass where eventually a studio will achieve enough clout by being the "last man standing" that they can start pushing back on the current pricing structure.
 
Old 09-12-2012, 08:13 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by THX1311
Must disagree Mate
Art does not "run" farming,commodity prices
the Military weapons industry
or the rate of interest on bonds purchased (now without limit) by the ECB or U.S. Federal Reserve
These things are what affect the live of humans on this planet the most

the rest is just distracting eye candy

Cheers


So you are telling me that the multi-billion dollar advertising industry that puts food on the table to millions of people is nothing more than just distracting eye candy? How about new jobs never invented before in part thanks to the influence of art in general is nothing?

While Military Weapons Industry might affect people, you cannot blindly ignore all the innovation, businesses and progress art has given to the world.

Yes there are things with more pressing matters and interests, but I do not agree that you should consider art as something that is not needed, not in this age.
 
Old 09-12-2012, 08:20 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tamagoo
So you are telling me that the multi-billion dollar advertising industry that puts food on the table to millions of people is nothing more than just distracting eye candy? How about new jobs never invented before in part thanks to the influence of art in general is nothing?

While Military Weapons Industry might affect people, you cannot blindly ignore all the innovation, businesses and progress art has given to the world.

Yes there are things with more pressing matters and interests, but I do not agree that you should consider art as something that is not needed, not in this age.


yeeeeah it's actually not as important as you make it out to be. The only people who care are the ones making it.
 
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