Is clever software taking our jobs?


#43

If you could do a survey of everyone who learned to use a 3D/CG application of some description between 1995 and say 2007 (the years, roughly, when 3D animation was hot hot hot! in the movies and everyone wanted to do it) you’d probably find that tens of thousands of people failed to create what they could picture in their creative minds due to slow, complicated, achingly technical and - to top it all off - overpriced 3D software + crappy, overpriced PC hardware, and eventually either quit doing CG altogether, or wound up laboring in a far less creative subfield like achviz, productviz, medical or science/engineering viz. My guess is that at least 8/10 CG users of those years eventually dropped out of doing CG completely at some point.

If the 3D software had been better designed from the getgo, if hardware rendering acceleration had been available when it was really needed, if the software pricing had been a little less crueland if a handfull of really smart interaction design/usability people had been hired to figure out how to really streamline 3D workflow for solo and small studio CG creators, the world of creativity would have changed in so many different ways.

You would be able to go on Youtube today and find that maybe 3 - 5 out of the ‘Top 20 most viewed’ videos each day is short form CG animation produced by small indy studios around the world, instead of 5 minutes of some guy with spiky hair talking into his webcam. You would go to the cinemas every 2 - 3 months and find full length, independently created CG features that are not about talking animals or Star Wars Clone Wars or other kiddy franchises. You would find all sorts of CG-heavy weekly TV shows being made around the world instead of being blasted with CG-heavy advertising for razor blades, cars or anti-dandruff shampoo all the time instead. And you’d probably find that maybe 10 - 20% of the popular websites on the internet feature some kind of web3D component (a virtual store, a 3D consumer chat area, something interactive andrealtime3D).

To answer your original question though - what is going to be left for the experts to do? - don’t worry about a thing. The CG software industry will continue to pump out slow, complex, overly technical & pricy tools that need one or more ‘specialized experts’ to babysit it in a production environment. Once the current global economic crisis blows over especially, you will find that current ‘nice-price’ pricing policies on a lot of 3D/CG/game related software also goes away. It will be like the old days of ‘Maya & Softimage and SGI in Big Studio Pipelines’ again, only with a cloud-rendering twist that will be priced, very much on purpose just as in the past, to exclude independent creators and small CG studios.

If you want to get really conspiratorial, Intel and AMD could probably produce a CPU with 10 - 20 cores running at 2.5 Ghz per core by next year and sell it to 3D and engineering software users for no more than 2000 - 3000 dollars a pop. They will never do that, however, because it would put way too much rendering power in the hands of solo CG creators and small CG studios. We’ll probably get those 20 core beasts 5 - 7 years from now, and maybe only as a ‘cloud CPU’ that can be rented but not bought… It all depends on if and when the next economic crisis hits.


#44

Wat a second. Today top processors are 3 times faster than processors, released 3 years ago. That’s not bad for a single stone. If you need 20 processors, you can buy them for 20 grands. It’s not 2-3 grands like you would dream about, but it’s still not that much for a studio. You can have a decent speed if you have money to invest. If you count maya or 3ds max seats for 10 people, you would see you have to spend a lot of money also.


#45

The NET CREATIVE COST of having to have 20K - 50K to spend on just basic 3D software/hardware (i.e. not including office rent, artist salaries, utilities & other costst) to start a studio is that THOUSANDS OF SMALL, INDEPENDENT CG STUDIOS that could have been started all over the world in the last decade were never started because the money wasn’t there.

I know, because years ago my friends and I couldn’t find the money to start a studio.

This, in return, has resulted in an overall LACK of interesting CG material online or on TV. I see very little CG these days that makes me think ‘Oh this is clever’ or ‘Oh this is cool & new’ or ‘Wow this looks different and original!’.

Come on. Point me to 10 CG animations made in the last few months that are so good that you must watch them. I’ll be impressed if you can show me 3.

This is a DIRECT CONSEQUENCE of good CG hardware&software costing way too much for small startups. Period.

Its always been this way with CG, and probably always will stay this way. Maybe in 10 years from now a good 3D renderbox will cost only 2K - 3K and the software 1K.


#46

See, I agree that there have been a lot of people who have dropped out of the 3D field. It was oversold during the aughts. I don’t know if it’s 80% though. I guess if you count every highschool kid with a pirated copy of Max.

But animation is expensive, in time if nothing else. Cheap webcam videos will always be more numerous than animation because it will always be easier to produce. There is no conspiracy holding CPU manufacturers back, and a lot of times this software is complicated and hard to use because it’s trying to do something hard and complicated. The price of Autodesk 3D software may have gone up a bit lately, but it’s not exactly a crisis yet. I can certainly do perfectly decent work with $1K software and a $3K workstation if I need to. Hardware is seldom the limiting factor in a business. Certainly not for a feature film.

CG is a very specialized field, and entertainment is only one small corner of it. The feature film industry is tiny compared to the architectural, medical, advertising, manufacturing, and legal industries, all of which use CG. Pixar started out making mostly commercials and hardware.

All this doom and gloom (We’ll all be replaced by software robots! Autodesk makes complicated software!) is mostly blame-shifting. Art is defined not by removing the limitations but by transcending the limitations. As humans, we have that power.


#47

…the world of creativity would have changed in so many different ways.

You would be able to go on Youtube today and find that maybe 3 - 5 out of the ‘Top 20 most viewed’ videos each day is short form CG animation produced by small indy studios around the world, instead of 5 minutes of some guy with spiky hair talking into his webcam. You would go to the cinemas every 2 - 3 months and find full length, independently created CG features that are not about talking animals or Star Wars Clone Wars or other kiddy franchises. You would find all sorts of CG-heavy weekly TV shows being made around the world instead of being blasted with CG-heavy advertising for razor blades, cars or anti-dandruff shampoo all the time instead.

Blasto!!
That was a bomb. Good words, true words :beer:
Quote for agreement, can’t say better.


#48

I wouldn’t make such definitive claims. My granddad was working in the institute of Paton in Ukraine, and told me in early 90’s about lots of technologies and patents developed there, which we see today as cutting-edge ones. Which were simply bought out by foreign companies, and waiting for their marketing time. It doesn’t mean they couldn’t produce them back there, but it’s not that simple that you produce a new technology and flood the market. And profit definitely is one of the first reasons.


#49

as a former product designer, i can say that you are right, some things already are possible and could be on the market but aren’t so companys don’t compete with thenselves or because the public is not ready, if everyone was evenly rich we would have internet via radio waves by now and all tv would be internet tv.


#50

A lot of “new products” are based on technology & techniques that are anywhere from 3 - 15 years old. Take for example a brand-new “touch screen + no-glasses 3d screen + e-ink” mobile phone. Touch screen is really old technology. Glasses-free 3D monitor prototypes were around 7 - 8 years ago. E-ink screens has been in development for almost a decade maybe.

But you combine these in a small mobile phone package that fits in your hand and people go “wow thats cool!”.

Another example is “voice recognition”. Its really, really old technology by now, but I guarantee you that in a few years there will be a wave of new “voice-activated products”, like a voice-operated tablet computer or washing machine or LED TV or laptop/netbook and people will think that this is NEW & INNOVATIVE!

I feel sorry for people who are rushing to buy 3D LED TVs with shutter glasses right now, because in a 2 - 3 years there will probably be models that don’t need glasses at all to view 3D.


#51

What are you trying to say? That Pixar, DW, us, Weta, ILM, D2, RnH and whoever else has a multi thousands CPU farm has lobbied AMD and Intel to not release a cashcow to make sure the small artist is crippled and not competitive with the large studios?

If that’s what you really mean, oh man that’d be the day. Very funny :slight_smile:

For the record, you can already buy a viable render blade for less than 3 grands, and software has never been cheaper.
If you and your friends couldn’t afford the hardware and services to open a studios, it probably means you’re a couple kids fresh out of mom’s basement, because I have friends who started what quickly became successful activities with less than 30 grands, something only 5 years ago would have been impossible.

Wow, now the CG scene gets its own conspiracy theoriest too, that’s awesome :slight_smile:


#52

It is my sincere belief that cheap, powerful multicore CPUs like Core i5/i7 and cheap, powerful programmable GPUs (CUDA/OpenCL), as well as lower cost 3D/DCC/GameEngine/Engineering software licenses were technically and economically feasible as far back as the years 2004/5/6 or so, but that these key developments were intentionally delayed to market by a few years because Bush’s right-wing America was petrified by the idea of “the rise of the rest” - the idea of smaller, developing economies around the world with lower labour costs than America starting to compete with America in key technology-driven fields like internet services, CG/game development, engineering/product design and others.

If it hadn’t been for the huge global economic crisis of 2008, the picture would probably have stayed that way - i.e. companies in the rich countries get to use all the nice toys, while those in poorer countries can’t really compete because of cost-barriers to entry and have to wait 3 - 5 years before they can get into the game.

You can call this conspiracy theory. But it may just as easily be economic realpolitik - that you don’t make the nice toys available to poorer countries until your domestic creative industry has already exhausted them and gained an unshakable position in the market.


#53

You would be able to go on Youtube today and find that maybe 3 - 5 out of the ‘Top 20 most viewed’ videos each day is short form CG animation produced by small indy studios around the world, instead of 5 minutes of some guy with spiky hair talking into his webcam. You would go to the cinemas every 2 - 3 months and find full length, independently created CG features that are not about talking animals or Star Wars Clone Wars or other kiddy franchises. You would find all sorts of CG-heavy weekly TV shows being made around the world instead of being blasted with CG-heavy advertising for razor blades, cars or anti-dandruff shampoo all the time instead. And you’d probably find that maybe 10 - 20% of the popular websites on the internet feature some kind of web3D component (a virtual store, a 3D consumer chat area, something interactive andrealtime3D).

This sounds a lot like the claims made for desktop publishing and desktop video back in the day–how new technology was going to democratize the publishing/video industry and lead to a new explosion of creativity. While it’s true that desktop publishing tools certainly did make it easier to self-publish, the publishing world is basically still run by the same big companies who always ran it. And while desktop video did open up some new avenues for independent film, it also enabled reality TV and the spiky-haired YouTube guys you’re decrying in this post in a quantity never before imaginable.

To be frank, most of the things people did with their newfound technological freedom were complete crap. Nothing wrong with that–if people enjoy making something and don’t mind that it’s got little artistic value, as far as I’m concerned, more power to them. But I’m extremely dubious of the claim that better tools would have lead to a whole lot of great independently made CG features and new creative horizons. I think it far more likely we’d see exactly the same slate of films we see today, plus a whole lot more really terrible CG on YouTube.

The NET CREATIVE COST of having to have 20K - 50K to spend on just basic 3D software/hardware (i.e. not including office rent, artist salaries, utilities & other costst) to start a studio is that THOUSANDS OF SMALL, INDEPENDENT CG STUDIOS that could have been started all over the world in the last decade were never started because the money wasn’t there.

I know, because years ago my friends and I couldn’t find the money to start a studio.

Speaking as someone who did start a small studio in 1999 on $15,000 of seed money, I don’t really buy this. It was most certainly possible, quite a few small studios did start up, some were lucky and survived and some were unlucky and didn’t, but that’s pretty much par for the course with small businesses. No, there weren’t thousands, but I find it very hard to believe that there was a market for the output of a thousand small studios (unless you’re going to suggest some sort of huge shift in the viewing tastes of the public).

I’m sorry your business venture didn’t work out, but that happens in every industry, for all kinds of reasons.


#54

Reality check, the development of microprocessors of any kind is progressing at an unbelievable rate for decades without any sign of slowing down regardless of the many doomsday scenarios. The increase of computational power over time at ever lower prices goes well beyond any other development i’m aware of and not only in the past years but basicaly since the 70s. Computational power is becoming cheaper over time than any other thing i can think of. If the pricedrop for food would be the same as for computational power we could feed a whole family on a dime for a month in any developed country without skimping on the diet.
You picked the single most useless thing to base such an accusation on.

Btw, your ideas on why software development wasn’t where it is now 10 years ago only shows that you never were invovled in it yourself.

As for why we currently swoon over touchscreen and things, well it’s because it was bloody difficult to get these things going and the combination of many new developments (high capacity accumulators, low power consumption processors, long lived high def displays …) was neccesary to create something like the current pads and phones.
Yes, we have seen prototypes of stuff for years and we will continue to see cool stuff years before they come to market in any useable way. What you fail to take into account is how realy realy difficult to create this stuff is and that many companies go bust over developing this. There were i don’t know how many companies trying to create electronic paper, basicaly only two made it and that after a long and costly devleopment. Have you actualy tried the touchscreens from 5 or more years ago? They were bloddy useless!

Sorry, so far you haven’t written anything here that makes even a minimun of sense, but i’m confident you will find an excuse for that :slight_smile:

Cheers
Björn

PS: a decent rendernode can be had for <1K and you can get the software you needd to be creative for free. What you realy need to make a good film (CG or not) is talent and time.
If you take a closer look on what is offered on Youtube etc. regarding CG movies. Most aren’t laking greatness because of to little money, to shabby systems or to underdeveloped software. If you can tell a good story you can tell it with every kind of money.


#55

Um, actually according to Intel’s price list you can get a 2.0 GHz 10 core Xeon E7-8850 right now for $3059. If you go for a dual socket motherboard you can get two 2.0 GHz 8 core E7-2820 (16 cores total) for $2668. That’s a bit below the speed you quoted, but it’s in the same neighborhood of total cores x GHz.


#56

Cracked me up ^^ lol


#57

Hello ladies and gentlemen. I don’t post very often here, but felt the need to step in on this thread.

All joking aside :slight_smile:

What’s happening in the post & vfx services industry is quite real, while still in somewhat early stages – it’s a powerful force called commoditization, that’s unlikely to slow it’s pace.

In case you’re wondering what I mean by commoditization…

“…in economic terms, commoditization is closely related to and often follows from the stage when a market changes from one of monopolistic competition to one of perfect competition, a product essentially becomes a commodity when customers perceive little or no value difference between brands or versions.Commoditization can be the desired outcome of an entity in the market, or it can be an unintentional outcome that no party actively sought to achieve.Consumers can benefit from commoditization, since perfect competition usually leads to lower prices. Branded producers often suffer under commoditization, since the value of the brand (and ability to command price premiums) can be weakened.”

The combination of globalization (aka arbitrage) with widespread accessibility and pervasiveness of consumer grade graphics technology are the enablers of this commoditization – and is related to the reason the Wall Street Journal recently reported on Post Production Services being one of the top ten “Dying Industries”:

WSJ Real Time Economics: Top Ten Dying Industries

It’s the very same reason that the Visual Effects Society had an entire session to focus on how to change the business model of the vfx industry last year, and currently has an open letter to the industry…

Excerpt: “…As globalization intensifies, the process of creating visual effects is becoming more and more commoditized. Many wonder if the current business model for our industry is sustainable over the long term. Indeed, multiplying blogs are questioning why artists are forced to work crazy overtime hours for weeks or months on end without health benefits and VFX facilities are forced to take on shows at a loss just to keep their pipelines going and their doors open (they hope).” Read the full letter here:

An Open Letter To VFX Artists And The Entertainment Industry At Large Visual Effects Society: 2.0

Any industry who’s value proposition starts based on the accessibility of technology (like ours did, back in the lovely golden days of sgi and softimage when I was getting started) will fall prey to the now unstoppable force known as Moores law, which creates an exponential increase in computational capability and is the underlying primary enabler of what’s known as “disruptive technology”.

So we (at least the California vfx community) are up against all three complex macro forces:
Commoditization
Arbitrage
Disruption

It’s going to be a tough one to fight, kind of like fighting a strong underwater current.

I love this industry – but we need to transform. We can not simply be a services based industry any longer – we need to look to the future, as we have always done – and find a new and better value proposition that goes beyond simply services.

Services simply do not work in the new network economy, unless they are web services.


#58

That entire spiel has nothing to do with automation/innovation reducing the number of jobs available. It just means that the jobs themselves become available to more countries and have a smaller entry fee.

And the thread looks now ripe for some union and anti-union propaganda fanatics to be cued in at any moment now…


#59

Q. Is clever software taking our jobs?

A. Clever software is the reason any of us have jobs (or a CG ‘industry’)

Going slightly off topic, I’ve often wondered what people who are predisposed to geekery did before computers were invented.

My great grandfather may have had all the right innate skills to have been an awesome MEL scripting ninja, except for the irksome fact of being born in the wrong century …


#60

Yeah, this is where it gets fun :slight_smile:


#61

To put it politely,this statement is patronising and arrogant in the extreme.Effectively Thatcher sold off any revenue producing state companies and replaced subsidy for heavy industry with a payment of unemployment and sickness benefits/social destruction/call centre jobs…in the UK, and increased the British dependance on foreign coal/oil/gas imports from the middle east/Russia etc.The energy was still required…an as such we are now beholding to gangsters like Putin or the Saudis…
Anyway,I understand your point about obselenscence…to bring that dumbass woman into the conversation was pretty slack…dogmatic rampant tory perchance?


#62

Played D&D for real, in cellars, together :slight_smile: They are still doing it.