Computer Graphics World

March/April 2013

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Editor'sNote Going Green The Magazine for Digital Content Professionals E D I TO R I A L A s I write this, St. Patrick's Day is nearly upon us, and everyone is thinking green. Green shirts, green beer, green hair…. Green is also on the minds of those in the visual effects community, albeit for a completely different (and less festive) reason. Immediately after the Academy Awards, digital effects practitioners and their supporters began substituting their Facebook profile pictures with a bright-green square to signify their support for the VFX industry that is going through a financial crisis and the hundreds of artists from Rhythm & Hues (R&H) and elsewhere who more recently were seeing a different color, pink, as in pink slips. During his acceptance speech after winning the visual effects Oscar for R&H's work on Life of Pi, VFX Supervisor Bill Westenhofer began addressing the crisis in the industry that led to the facility filing for Chapter 11 protection just days before the Academy Awards and discussing the protest by R&H artists and supporters just hours before the event. But before he could get more than a sentence delivered, his voice was drowned out by the Jaws theme signifying time was up (rather ironic, huh?). Westenhofer was able to continue his comments backstage, as did Ang Lee after receiving his Oscar for best director. But what he had to say was hardly supportive. What Westenhofer had to say on stage and backstage affected nearly everyone sitting in that theater, whether they are part of a VFX-heavy movie or a live-action flick that relies on digital effects, invisible or not. And this is not a situation unique to R&H. Nearly all US visual effects facilities are suffering, as well as some abroad. And the Oscars provided a perfect setting to bring this to light – and that is what former ILM GM and DD Founder Scott Ross believed. So he sent a Tweet early in the day: "I had a dream, 500 VFX artists near the Dolby (Kodak) theater on Oscar day waving signs that say "I want a piece of the Pi too." People responded. After all, how could artists spend close to a year producing Academy Award-winning work, only to find themselves without a paycheck immediately after? The thought was incredulous. What Happened? Studios are having to close their doors because they have been forced to take on work for much lower prices – often breakeven or worse – just so they can keep the lights on and retain staff. That can only go on for so long. As a result, VFX artists have turned into migrant workers, chasing jobs across the country and abroad. Additionally, they are doing so without health benefits or consistent benefits that follow them from job to job. When they are employed, they are required to work very long hours on a production, often without overtime pay. The facilities, like R&H, value their employees and their skills. They just do not seem to have a choice anymore. How did the situation degrade so fast? It has been a problem brewing in our industry for the past several years but has now reached epic proportions. Turn back the clock, and starting in the mid-1980s, US visual effects studios provoked envy across the globe. For the most part, these studios were formed based on the passion and vision of artists and technical gurus. They achieved things that had never been done before in visual effects: TRON, Jurassic Park, Star Wars…. Later, we began to see more and more work on major movie productions being done outside of Hollywood. Little by little, pixel by pixel, work was sent around the globe. Today, London (particularly Soho) boasts a bustling digital production region where you can find big names and big talent: Cinesite, Framestore, Double Negative, The Moving Picture Company, The Mill, and more. Meanwhile, Weta established continued on page 47 2 March/April 2013 CGW0313-review-edit-backpfin.indd 2 KAREN MOLTENBREY Chief Editor • (603) 432-7568 CONTRIBUTING EDITORS Courtney Howard, Jenny Donelan, Kathleen Maher, George Maestri, Martin McEachern, Barbara Robertson WILLIAM R. 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Computer Graphics World cannot be held responsible for the safekeeping or return of unsolicited articles, manuscripts, photographs, illustrations or other materials. Address all subscription correspondence to: Computer Graphics World, 620 West Elk Ave, Glendale, CA 91204. Subscriptions are available free to qualified individuals within the United States. Non-qualified subscription rates: USA—$72 for 1 year, $98 for 2 years; Canadian subscriptions —$98 for 1 year and $136 for 2 years; all other countries—$150 for 1 year and $208 for 2 years. Digital subscriptions are available for $27 per year. Subscribers can also contact customer service by calling 818-291-1158, or sending an email to Recent awards: Postmaster: Send Address Changes to Computer Graphics World, 620 W. Elk Ave., Glendale, CA 91204 Please send customer service inquiries to 620 W. Elk Ave., Glendale, CA 91204 3/14/13 12:05 PM

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