Hello everyone, buoyed on from the success of VFX and CG Survival Guide for Filmmakers and Producers (Kindle – http://amzn.to/WTZByQ) I’ve been approached by independent film producers to provide VFX for their projects. The requests have come from far and wide, some asking for quotes others asking me to carry out the work.
This post is about what is in it for an independent film producer to come directly to the artist and what can the artist do to make sure the work is delivered to schedule and budget using cloud computing?
What does the Cloud mean for Filmmakers and Producers?
Firstly the producer is going to get his/her VFX done for a fraction of the cost that it would take to do if he/she went to a facility. Some producers are more realistic than others, some will expect the effects to be on par with that of a facility, others realise what a good deal they are getting but still expect a level of quality that would be at least half the quality they would get from a facility.
To contrast the deal a producer would get from a studio to going directly to a VFX artist here are the rate cards of a highly respected VFX company
|Mill Rate Card in £ Source: http://www.themill.com/media/214554/london_rate_card_lndscpe.jpg
|Mill rate card in US $, source: http://www.themill.com/media/214560/usa_rate_card_lndscpe.jpg
|Edit19 Rate Card, source: http://www.edit19.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/E19_Rate_Card_2012_v01.pdf
|Jump Willy rate card, source: http://www.jumpwilly.com/rate-card/
|Smoke and Mirrors rate card, source: http://www.smoke-mirrors.com/smweb/s&m_data/Smoke&Mirrors_ratecard.pdf
What you’ll notice is that in the UK version CGI is by quote but in the US version you can see it comes in at $3000 a day (i.e. ~£2000 or 2200 Euros a day).
Typical day rates for VFX artists are between £250 to £300, (i.e. $380 to $460, 290 to 350 Euros), so where does this extra £1500/$2580 (average) price come in?
Basically the producer is being charged for the various other fixed and running costs like
- R&D, proprietary technology and specialist knowledge
- software licences
- render farms
- office rent
- office costs (desk, chairs, heating, lighting, water, electricity)
- admin staff (receptionists, accountants etc.)
What does the Cloud mean for VFX artists?
From your side, what can you do to deliver on this, after all you are a single artist and don’t have the huge infrastructure that facility has, not to mention all the R&D they have done to develop a pipeline, right?
Well actually, wrong! Things are changing and now you are able to harness the power of the cloud to
– software licences are changing
You can now buy monthly subscriptions to virtually any software that you would need without the needing a huge cash outlay to purchase
For example, renting the whole of the Adobe Creative Suite now costs £46 per month, purchasing it outright would cost £1810
Renting NukeX would be £1600 ($2900, 1925 Euros) for a quarter
There is even an option for renting Houdini batch
Autodesk take the whole concept of using the cloud one step further with their Autodesk 360 packages which is a fully cloud based solution allowing you to even use maya on your Android/iPad/Surface. Essentially your tablet or phone becomes a monitor and the memory hungry software is run on the autodesk servers.
|using the cloud to run your software means you don’t even need a powerful machine anymore, source: https://360.autodesk.com/landing
Autodesk 360 also allows you to cloud render. Cloud rendering has been offered as a service for a couple of years now, there are several dozen cloud rendering services that operate various pay-as-you-go or fixed block subscription models. Obviously this enables you to render the whole job so much quicker without making a huge investment in your own render farm, but also you and your client will now know exactly how much it will cost per extra revision, you can have the cost signed off in advanced of any changes being done.
|Chaos Group (the makers of VRay have 20 render farms that they recommend on thier website, source: http://www.chaosgroup.com/en/2/vray_services.html
Renderman on Demand is Pixars own render service, source: http://renderman.pixar.com/products/tools/faq-cloud.html
I’ve not used every render service listed below, I put them here to illustrate that you have so many options
Pooling in freelancers I know versus using LinkedIn
For the past I’ve used both freelancers that I have worked with and used LinkedIn to find animators, VFX artists, sound designers etc. Clearly using people that I have worked with in the past is the preferred solution as they are a known quantity and I would only choose to work with the best in their discipline. However I do realise that I’m quite fortunate in that regard (having worked at MPC, Double Negative, Aardman, Mokko, Rushes etc.) and that not everyone has a pool of co-workers they could call upon. So here’s a list of recommendations when using LinkedIn to find people.
- Create a webform for people to fill out and then post that form on the LinkedIn forums
Be very specific in your post and ask people to fill out the online form which should have fields like experience, specialism (e.g. rigging, texturing, effects), showreel, software competency levels, availability, day rate, location.
|an example of ascertaing candidate suitability through a web form, source: http://www.primefocusgroup.com/recruitment/uk/ukbvfx001
- Don’t promise anything to anyone on LinkedIn
- Only follow up with the people who fill in the form
Don’t follow up with the dozens of people who write ‘see my showreel here’ in the comment boxes below. If they can’t even follow a simple instruction to fill out a form it’s highly unlikely they’ll be able to carry out any meaningful work for you.
Where to search for suitable artists on LinkedIn
|there are many groups on LinkedIn where you can find specific artists, e.g. riggers, FX, compositors
Store and transfer files
Have big scene files, massive amounts of cache, big render folders that you need to share? Again there are dozens of solutions depending upon your workflow.
What’s really great about dropbox is the ability to share whole folders without having to do any manual uploading to sending e-mails to the people you are working with, you just carry on working as you would normally and the whole workspace that you are in will be automatically updated. You’ll need to work in a dropbox folder which they will install on your machine and on everybody’s machine you are working with.
|create shortcuts in your own folder structure to point to dropbox
Installing and switching to dropbox need not upset your nicely organised folder structure. Keep you current folder structure as it is and but move only those folders that you want to back up or share to your dropbox hierarchy. Go back to your original structure and create shortcuts that point to the dropbox folder.
|dropbox pricing, source: https://www.dropbox.com/pricing
If you’re serious about carrying out VFX work on the web you may need to go for the Pro version to have enough space to carry out your tasks, remember to factor in this cost into your budget.
An alternative to dropbox is the WeTransfer portal. Essentially you upload a file here, enter the e-mail address of the person, your own (so that you get a confirmation) and a message. It’s done that’s it, it’s free (bar the huge advertisements they serve while you upload) and easy. When transferring large files or folders, you will have to zip them before sending,
- Right click on the folder (in windows explorer) and choose
- Send To
- Compressed (zipped) folder
- Send To
Microsoft also offer their version of cloud storage known as SkyDrive which will essentially keep your machine in sync online. I’m sure there are so many other storage solutions online, please leave a comment in the box below telling me your preferred choice.
Communicating through the cloud
One of the main advantages of VFX 2.0 is that you don’t need to hire any studio space, you will communicate through the cloud across different time zones Again this is no problem there are a variety of online meeting websites that can facilitate these. I’ve personally used the two below, where sharing screens and drawing exactly how/where I want the animation, FX etc. to go was very handy that an e-mail couldn’t have achieved. It was not quite being in the same room as them but if you persist it can be of immense benefit to you. If you search you will find many more portals, again leave some comments below of which ones you like.
The VFX model is changing, if you now have enough 3D, VFX, animation skills you can go and pitch for work directly at a much lower rate than any facility can whilst also making double the amount of money you would working at such a facility. The tools all exist and filmmakers and producers are looking for your skills especially given the current economic climate, if your showreel can show you are able to deliver. You may need the help of a couple of other people in the CG pipeline but it can be done, I’ve done it on a few projects now.
Thanks for reading.
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