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January 2017

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Page 34 of 43 33 POST JANUARY 2017 JANUARY 2017 T elevision production has always been a cyclical process. Shows begin airing in the fall, take a brief hiatus around the holidays, wrap in the spring, an influx of pilots are produced — ending in a summer hiatus. But with new distribution models from streaming services like Netflix and Amazon, and premium cable networks such as HBO and Showtime, we are seeing a demand for production year-round. This in turn calls for nonstop post production. For the first time in 14 years, we saw practically no hiatus in 2016. Though series in these "new age" distribution models do not fall under the same timeline and production pipeline as standard broadcast series, the amalgamated amount of time spent on a series is not much different. They often have shorter seasons of between eight to 12 episodes with a rolling post cycle, rather than closing out the post sequentially as episodes are delivered throughout a season. This rolling delivery cycle allows us to take a bigger picture approach to the visual effects on a series and spend more time on asset generation on the front end. On a typical episodic show, we get the script as we go into the first production meeting. However, with series on alternate distribution models we have more time to generate assets and develop the visual arc to reach feature-level quality for televi- sion effects. Creative crossover between feature film and television is reaching its peak, both in terms of directorial talent and the escalation of ambitious conceptual projects. These factors have upped the game in creative visual problem-solv- ing for VFX in the episodic arena. While we have been lucky to be able to work on VFX for episodic projects with visuals furthering storytelling consis- tently since our launch, this migration of feature talent to the television space has massively accelerated the demand for visual effects aiding in the delivery of a signature series aesthetic. This also means that the expectations for top notch, feature-level quality are higher than ever. We have always worked hand-in- hand with production designers, but we are being called upon more and more to offer adjunct art department services, working closely with the design team to craft key art and help achieve the production designer's vi- sual aesthetic. From virtual set design to creature design, we are seeing a major increase in the instances where we are collaborating directly with the production designer and/or director to design and execute a cohesive visual style that carries throughout an entire season, rather than on an episode-by-episode basis. Virtual sets have been a major part of Zoic for over eight years, but there has been a drastic uptick on the overall acceptance and adaptation of the process as a part of a wider toolbox of visual effects approaches for television. At Zoic, we have worked on a number of series that leverage virtual sets as a foundation for their visual effects, such as ABC's fantasy series Once Upon a Time and the up- coming Freeform supernatural drama series Beyond. Now, however, we are finding that more and more series that aren't exclusively virtual set shows are incorporating corner-to-corner 3D CG virtual sets as a solution for instances when there is no appropriate practical environment. There is finally a wide- spread adoption of the use of virtual sets as a means to say "yes" to scenes or sequences calling for an environ- ment that either does not exist or is not feasible in terms of budget, time, etc. Also, more times than not, these are photoreal virtual locations that re- ally give creators, writers and produc- ers more flexibility to be creative with their storytelling through locations and environments. An increase in the creative talent in the television industry has, of course, meant that the creative bar has been raised on what is expected for visual effects in television. These seasoned feature filmmakers and showrunners are accustomed to a certain level of realtime collaboration when it comes to visuals and storytelling. Looking into 2017, the products leveraging GPU accelerated render tools are going to continue to stand out in the marketplace. These technological advancements are really going to provide the technical back-end necessary to increase and improve realtime creative discussions on high-level visual effects and visual concepts. With superior creative interaction, we will only continue to push the boundaries of what is possible in VFX across all mediums. BY ANDREW ORLOFF ECD/VFX SUPERVISOR ZOIC STUDIOS LOS ANGELES/NEW YORK/ VANCOUVER ZOICSTUDIOS.COM THE FUTURE OF VFX FOR TELEVISION NEW MODELS FOR DISTRIBUTION PAVE THE WAY FOR HEIGHTENED CREATIVITY OUTLOOK O OUTLOOK O OUTLOOK VISUAL EFFECTS use. It's important for companies to un- derstand the viewer, user or participant's POV and their psyche, because it all comes back to how you tell the story. You can create a beautiful sci-fi film using the best tools available, but when you com- bine these visuals with a well-told story, it becomes a much deeper experience that far surpasses the luster and gloss of new technology and VFX. Audiences want to be swept away not only visually, but also emotionally. Now, we're masters of those techniques, but the question is, what are we going to do with them? I think most companies do a good job of keeping up with technology. However, in order to best wield its power, we must remember that technology can never replace our story — and that tools and tricks should never be our crutch. Only after you've established a strong foundation that distinguishes who you are and what you stand for, will technol- ogy enhance the narrative journey you create for others. True innovation happens when the forces of culture, creativity and consumerism collide. We're still telling the same stories we always have, but we're just using new tools to tell them in a different way.

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