VFX vs Video Games industry salaries

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Old 04 April 2013   #1
VFX vs Video Games industry salaries

Just read in GameDevelopper that this year average game artist salary is at 75000$ while VFX average artist salary was at 93000$ (US). I always thought that the 2 averages were not that far from each other, has this been the case for a while? Is it a well known fact?
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Old 04 April 2013   #2
It's always been the case, if anything the gap used to be even wider for some disciplines (and for some, it still is).

People tend to group the two together for two reasons: CGI/3D is involved, and people some times transition from one to the other because they are two of the rare "skills transferrable" fields for those doing 3D. The truth is there are significant differences, still, between games and VFX from an employment point of view.
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Old 04 April 2013   #3
I'd say it's a very well known fact that gaming jobs usually don't pay as well as VFX. It's one of the many reasons why I've never gone into gaming - I think the pay just isn't worth it.
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Old 04 April 2013   #4
I personally think it has to do more with the business models than talent, they differ a lot between VFX and Games, VFX is essentially a service industry made up of clients, day rates and contractors.

Like all industries the contractors get paid a lot and can wing their tax but they are also the first to get laid off, I was under the impression senior staff positions in the big VFX studios are no higher paid than those in the big game studios?

The entry level staff job in VFX is "runner" = minimum wage. This pay level doesn't even exist in games.

As for the pay being worth it, I much preferred working in a game studio than every other job I had. Even though the pay was way less in gaming than say working in IT... its a lot less stress quite frankly in real terms, essentially because they are so unbelievably picky about hires! If you get the job the chances are your incredibly well equipped to do it, when working billed out to a client on a day rate, there is a big incentive to push people in roles above their capabilities in order to generate greater "margin" on the individual (i've experienced this first hand and takes stress to other levels) In games no, it just doesn't happen, but the workloads can and often are enormous.

Last edited by conbom : 04 April 2013 at 11:08 PM.
 
Old 04 April 2013   #5
To me though it seems like in games there's a higher chance of getting a more secure job---like in films there's really only a few studios where an artist could probably work for a number of years before having to get a new job, like ILM or Weta. But in games there's a good number of studios where you can stick around for a really long time. Perhaps it's because there's many studios that actually make profit for themselves with their own IP rather than having to fight for projects.
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Old 04 April 2013   #6
Originally Posted by darthviper107: like in films there's really only a few studios where an artist could probably work for a number of years before having to get a new job, like ILM or Weta.


That's really not true. At least half, possibly more, of my friends and colleagues working in London are at studios where they've been for anywhere from 3-5 years. I'd say all of the big studios (and remember, it's the big studios who hire the most people and therefore make up the biggest share of jobs in the film VFX industry) tend to hire a lot of people quite longterm.

I'm not saying VFX is stable, because it isn't, but saying that only a few studios hire people for several years at a time isn't true.
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Old 04 April 2013   #7
Originally Posted by conbom: I personally think it has to do more with the business models than talent, they differ a lot between VFX and Games, VFX is essentially a service industry made up of clients, day rates and contractors.

Games aren't all that different with publishers holding developers at ransom, just the projects are a bit longer and warp the image a bit, but in those regards the two are more similar (in their negatives) than you think.
Narrow choice of major distributors and finance, large offer by narrow demand skewed hugely in distribution favour in the dist/dev equation, offices being bought, cannibalized and killed left and right paint a picture that, except for a few safe heavens, has been for years on par or worse with the absolute worst ever seen in VFX.

The market dynamics just happen to be more horridly flat than the highs and lows of film VFX.

Quote: Like all industries the contractors get paid a lot and can wing their tax but they are also the first to get laid off, I was under the impression senior staff positions in the big VFX studios are no higher paid than those in the big game studios?

The gap has narrowed, but the difference is still there, and can be quite large, ESPECIALLY for the senior staff roles, of which there are more and more "elite-feeling" in film and animation than there are in games.
Games only have two or three truly leading, star/recognition roles in designers, art directors and occasionally tech managers, film has a wider and more top heavy system, and some of the in-house very senior roles in the larger and more prestigious companies (director unit and the top of the supervisor group) in many can pull in considerable cash, a fair bit further down the six figures road than a game designer ever will unless they ascend to game godhood status and have options/ownership, but at that point you have to compare those people not to the plebe anymore, but to people like Catmull, Lasseter, Lettieri etc.

Quote: The entry level staff job in VFX is "runner" = minimum wage. This pay level doesn't even exist in games.

You forget play testers, office help (similar to runner, not quite common though), various interns (a lot more common in games than in film) and so on.

Quote: As for the pay being worth it, I much preferred working in a game studio than every other job I had. Even though the pay was way less in gaming than say working in IT... its a lot less stress quite frankly in real terms, essentially because they are so unbelievably picky about hires! If you get the job the chances are your incredibly well equipped to do it, when working billed out to a client on a day rate, there is a big incentive to push people in roles above their capabilities in order to generate greater "margin" on the individual (i've experienced this first hand and takes stress to other levels) In games no, it just doesn't happen, but the workloads can and often are enormous.

Sorry, but how is IT related to that slice of games and vfx work overlapping? Have you ever worked in film VFX? It's a very different picture than you paint, and frankly the internal terrorism and stress levels you hit in most game companies turning bad are almost unheard of in film VFX, and definitely NOT as undercompensated the rare times you reach them.

Going in in Weta at the end of Avatar or Hobbit for those three months of 80hrs weeks to patch the project to the finish line offer an immensely different income, treatment and environment to the non-compensated, family breaking one year crunch in equivalent game projects. It's not unheard of for that last stretch on some VFX projects to pay in three months what a whole one year crunch nets a senior game devloper or level artist makes actually, and you are treated much more fairly in crunch in VFX than you are in most game studios when they have to resort to that kind of hours.
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Last edited by ThE_JacO : 04 April 2013 at 11:35 PM.
 
Old 04 April 2013   #8
Quote: I'd say all of the big studios (and remember, it's the big studios who hire the most people and therefore make up the biggest share of jobs in the film VFX industry) tend to hire a lot of people quite longterm.


I'm not sure if 'long term' is the same for you and me, Leigh, but what I've always understood is that the hiring is more based on a project (months? 1 year? maybe a little more?) rather than offering you a permanent position. As always, keeping working in a company might depend of course of one's skills, but I guess that if projects keep coming one might have more or less a position on them too. As an example, my first gig at The Mill (as a freelance rigger for commercials) was for 3 weeks, and they kept me in the company for almost one year and a half. But it wasn't a 'hey, we want you to stay here for a year and work for us' offer.

In addition to all said, by working in VFX in commercials you'll get, in general, a better pay than doing VFX in movies. And I believe it might be a bit easier to step in as it is more freelancer-based. At least, that's the way it is in London as far as I can tell.
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Old 04 April 2013   #9
Originally Posted by leigh: I'd say it's a very well known fact that gaming jobs usually don't pay as well as VFX. It's one of the many reasons why I've never gone into gaming - I think the pay just isn't worth it.

I guess that's 1 of the thing that makes game companies are grow richer in contrast to VFX studios : /
 
Old 04 April 2013   #10
Originally Posted by Panupat: I guess that's 1 of the thing that makes game companies are grow richer in contrast to VFX studios : /

You confuse game companies and publishers.
The ones growing rich are the ones holding the shops by the balls, rockstar, activision, n2Soft etc.
Shops get shut down by the dozen every-single-year, even when they make games that rake in a fortune.
Much like Paramount, Fox, WB, etc. make money, and R&H shut down.

The difference is that studios just let the shops wither and die in film, publishers finance and buy into game companies actively and then shut them down and move the developed and profitable IP wherever they want.

The few exceptions, like Blizzard or Valve (the former in the hands of AV but with such a strong structure and portfolio and revenues they don't care, the latter privately owned) can be compared to the rare exceptions such as Pixar and Weta, but they are that, exceptions, singularities.

People still do not to quite get how the entertainment industry is organized, it seems.

The FX Shops aren't the studios, the game companies aren't the publishers, the bands are not the record labels.
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Old 04 April 2013   #11
I think getting a real number for game dev's would be hard since there are so many private companies small and large which generate quiet significant amounts of $$$..
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Old 04 April 2013   #12
Originally Posted by leigh: That's really not true. At least half, possibly more, of my friends and colleagues working in London are at studios where they've been for anywhere from 3-5 years. I'd say all of the big studios (and remember, it's the big studios who hire the most people and therefore make up the biggest share of jobs in the film VFX industry) tend to hire a lot of people quite longterm.

I'm not saying VFX is stable, because it isn't, but saying that only a few studios hire people for several years at a time isn't true.


I'm sure talented people can end up hanging around a studio for a while, but I think in the gaming industry there's a much higher possibility of staying at a studio for 5+ years than in a VFX studio
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Old 04 April 2013   #13
Originally Posted by darthviper107: I'm sure talented people can end up hanging around a studio for a while, but I think in the gaming industry there's a much higher possibility of staying at a studio for 5+ years than in a VFX studio

If the studio survives that long, I think it's generally true, or at least more frequent than in VFX.

The length of the projects compared with the shorter or near absent downtime for an established game studio makes it so that there's a lot more core staff. The work is also at a more constant load with fewer steps in the pipe, requiring fewer of both local (dept) and global (shop wide) contractions in staff.
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Old 04 April 2013   #14
I could be wrong, but it seems like a lot of the VFX studios are in California where salaries and cost of living is higher. A lot of Game studios seem like they're more spread out, located places that cost less to live in than CA.
 
Old 04 April 2013   #15
Yeah, game studios can pretty much be anywhere, though many do take advantage of government funding.
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