The Unofficial Truth about The Industry (Part 2)


I think it’s a good practice to be open to different types of CG work and be willing to explore the creativity within each branching field. Once you’re willing to give other fields a chance, they can be quite creative and rewarding in their own ways.

Is it really the utmost importance that you work for hollywood FX or video game studios for the fame or would you be content being a super-hero employee at a tiny studio doing something along the lines of scientific, medical, or educational animation production work?


Fame? What fame? I work in film because I enjoy the actual work, not because I think it’s going to somehow make me famous. I’d get bored shitless doing something like medical animation; I’m not interested in it in the slightest. Environments and creatures and stuff are immensely more fun and satisfying for me.

Do you really, honestly enjoy your job? If you do, you’d be the first person I’ve ever come across that actually genuinely enjoys doing medical animation.


A great write-up Joe! It’s good to see a level headed opinion on the state of the industry.


Medical or scientific animation obviously isn’t for everyone, but this is exactly the resistance towards other fields I was talking about. You mentioned you like creating environments, yet scientific and medical animation work have a vast array of environments. They’re every bit a natural environment as a forest or mountain range.

I do enjoy my job and the other medical animators I’ve met and worked with do as well. We have a natural fascination with biology, physics, and science. There’s a lot of satisfaction that comes with creating training material for doctors and med students that no one else has made because it isn’t yet well understood around the world, not to mention being on the cutting edge of the scientific community.


Very good write-up, but I do want to nitpick one thing, because AFAICT it’s factually incorrect:

In the entertainment industry in particular, the studios are making less films and therefore there are less visual effects that need to be done.

I think studios are actually making pretty much the same amount of films they’ve always made, or slightly more. BoxOfficeMojo as a source. CPI adjusted box office gross I think is slightly lower, but hardly at all, and I’m guessing that the VFX-heavy films take a much much higher share of the total annual gross than they used to. Not that it affects most of the substance of this post.


Except surely it should be obvious that when I say I like environments, it’s because I like working with weathering, dirt, damage, and other kinds of detailing along those lines - something that couldn’t really be further along the spectrum from what you’re working with. As a texture painter, medical and scientific animation offers absolutely zero appeal.

If you want to call that “resistance towards other fields” then go ahead. I call it knowing what I enjoy and sticking with it, because enjoyment of my job is absolutely paramount.


Maybe he’s like… you know… a real life Dr. Egon Spengler.


You know, that’s a really good point in regards to texture painting. Most scientific CG work cares more about having a clear and clean aesthetic. The point usually is to take something that is visually complicated and reduce detail to make it easy to read.

One of the first things I had to learn when doing medical CG work was to tone the textures down because when they look too realistic, they get distracting and can even make the imagery dirty or cluttered looking for the message its trying to get across.

I had to learn how to create textures that were more hyper-real to still get certain details across, while doing it in a minimal way to not be distracting or gruesome looking - which the target audience almost never wants.


Exactly. I can totally understand why medical and scientific CG requires that aesthetic, but for me it’d be too frustrating to have to hold back my “put dirty details into everything” mindset. My favourite thing about texturing has always been the dirty little details, and getting really stuck into creating idiosyncratic detailing for everything. It’s what I love most about my job, and hence why visual effects has always been my field of choice.


I’d like to know what method and sources they use to make calculations on the number of films and whether they are only counting the major studios. I know there used to be a number of mid level and smaller studios that got absorbed or disbanded by the 90s and they usually specialized in genre films more so than the major studios do. But many of those films probably didnt get wide release which appears to be their standard for inclusion.

They have 173 films listed for 1981 and then 428 for 1982. What happened between those years to account for such a jump?

The impression I get is that major studios make more genre films (that require fx work) than they did prior to 1980, but overall its less when the smaller studios are added to the equation.It sure feels like less based on legacy and reputation of films.
Just for the horror genre it looks like a big drop when lists are made for the 70s or 80s compared to the 2000s.


I agree, which is why I’m surprised you’re so adamantly in support of what was said about complaints about moving for work.

Of course people don’t have to work on features in vfx, but I think it’s unfair to to tell people just “adapt” and take on different types of jobs if you want to settle down. I want to continuing doing what I love, but I also don’t want to have to leave my loved ones to do so.

I’m no expert on subsidies, and of course it’s not the one thing to blame for everything. But I haven’t honestly heard a good thing about it for the industry in the long run. Great for short boosts, seems to leave unemployed in its wake. It’s not good when an industry relies off a subsidy to be in a location, and that industry is mobile enough to jump ship the second those subsidies stop coming in.

It’d be great if the subsidies ended, and the industry remained there, and our work spread out across the world, but that doesn’t seem to be what I see happening. I just see studios moving work where the current best subsidy is, and then people having to follow those studios around. And nobody can compete with a country/location dumping money into studios creating these insane under bids.

But again, I’m no expert and could completely wrong on this. Is London bouncing back right now work wise? Or LA? If so then subsidies might actually be paying off in the end. I really am open to changing my opinion on them.


Studios are making fewer films and choosing to focus on tentpole properties. I would encourage you to read this article:

“Spielberg noted that because so many forms of entertainment are competing for attention, they would rather spend $250 million on a single film than make several personal, quirky projects.”

A look at this list shows that a majority of the movies planned are big-budget sequels:

I depend directly on the studios for work. The lack of new films being made makes it more competitive among studio side VFX Supervisors and VFX Producers, and we are definitely feeling the squeeze.


I’m sure a certain amount of fulfillment plays a role here too. Medicin has a direct impact on life and health. Movies are fake and entertaining. Some of the things animators in medicin get out of working with it are some things we as artists could never get, thus being enjoyable at a different level IMO.

Correct me if I’m wrong, sentry66


What in the world do you mean there is no sense in getting upset? Like you said yourself the subsidies have artificially accelerated that change leaving many people in its wake wondering what to do. People with houses…families…etc cannot simply up and move to a subsidized location where they are a project hire and then kicked out of the country upon completion of the work.

And they also artificially maintain work in locations that they would not otherwise exist. Not to mention the subsidies themselves are placing a downward price pressure on VFX and artists wages combined. It is a pyramid scheme with no positive endgame.

The vfx industry would be much better off and much more stable if the subsidies didn’t exist. Our work would be valued and priced as it should. As it stands now Studios/Producers are becoming accustomed to the discounted price of VFX because of subsidies. It will all come crashing down eventually. In the meantime it forces tons of artists to become even more nomadic then we already were.


And I wonder what your current view regarding unions and a trade association is currently?

Before trying to out VFX Soldier and getting holy hell for it and vanishing from the internet you had changed your tune about unions it seemed and thought some sort of group representation was a good idea.


That’s a huge part of it and there’s many different levels of it that come into play. Doing medical animation pretty much means you’re part of the education system to some degree, which in turn indirectly impacts people’s health and lives.

You create content that goes into medical books, digital atlases, journal articles, websites to inform patients, presentations doctors give to other doctors around the world, educational material for high school athletes about head injuries and concussions, training for nurses, educational TV shows, etc. I’ve even been directly involved science research where it was discovered that certain long-standing teachings about brain functions were wrong (by a lot) and they needed me to actually create the hard data by measuring 2D and 3D volumes. Other times you have to take really complicated concepts and simplify them down to the point that they can be aired on TV for a medical show so a layperson can understand.

Like all fields I have to admit, not every single piece of work I do is always the most exciting from a sheer technical or artistic CG animation perspective, but ironically those projects end up having some of the largest impacts in the industry so they end up being more fulfilling long after they’re done.


the production companies are using subsidies to remove risk of financing a film. the local governments are convinced they need film jobs by the executives/producers etc. and so they provide the subsidy. but they are rarely compensated in the way they imagined it would, through income tax, sales tax, etc. we have seen this often, a local government realizes that the subsidy doesn’t work, it doesn’t even break even.

so the way i see it, the middle class in the area are subsidizing rich executives to stay rich. local money should be spent in their interests, such as investing in education, civic maintenance, and other social programs. if some production company wants to make a tent pole film, they should risk their own money. if it does great they should get all the reward and if it doesn’t they should lose it all. in my opinion, these film subsidies are just another example of corporate capitalists abusing the middle class.

i should say, i actually don’t think subsidies are biggest issue with our industry, but they are certainly a reason to be upset. if awareness was raised about an individual’s local governments subsidizing hollywood, i would like to think they would be plenty upset.


I think he simply means: “We cannot cry (in the short term) over the things we have no short term control over.” If you take up these tax incentives as a cause… you can probably see change in the long term. But I think the OP is talking more about what artists can do in the short term.

The short term is to survive… The long term is to “effect reform”. A frank assessment though of the industry in its current state (ie: No VFX Association) means it is wiser (for now) to think about what you can do yourself, than to think too much about things like tax incentives and subsidies.


One thing that I would really enjoy about working int he game industry or film industry is not having to worry about accuracy or realism, you can just make shit up and go with it.


Everything you said is obvious and a given.
You honestly think artists are turning down jobs out of spite?
“I refuse to work in a subsidies location so there!”

Of course not. Artists are obviously doing whatever they can to survive. But the tone of “dont get mad about it” he portrays is the opposite of what you just said about taking note and trying to effect reform. If you’re not mad now what makes you think people will be mad later?