VFX Cloud Houses: What Do You Think?
It seems everything in VFX these days is complicated and controversial. I know of several VFX houses that are, or will be, opening in the cloud. That means you work from home, wherever that may be, doing various levels of professional VFX work. I doubt these houses will take on the really big stuff—at least not for now—but they will provide jobs for talented people who would otherwise not have access. I see that as a good thing.
Will they compete with U.S. houses? Well, yes. Some are U.S. houses. Will it be like sending work overseas? Yes and no.
I know of some very talented VFX people who for various reasons had to move away from centers where they could find work. They are now working outside the field and some are not happy about that. But even if you live in backwoods Idaho, where there is no regular internet connection, you'll be able to possibly get to back to your passion: VFX, and perhaps even character animation. How? HughesNet satellite Internet service, Exede satellite Internet Service and, in Europe, SES Broadband. Satellite Internet is not perfect by any means. It can be expensive and has latency problems. But I assume that the cloud houses will foot the bill for each employee—it's only right—and, even with the latency, the transfer rates can be very fast. I was one of the very first users of HughesNet, and it can be very effective. It should be part of a cloud house's overhead and if it's not, look elsewhere. After all, they don't have to rent a big expensive facility. Don't let them exploit you. The best of us get hungry for work from time to time, but never sell yourself short. Of course, many of you want more pay than you produce. Keep that in mind as well. Be reasonable.
The yes part of my yes-and-no answer is that people like my dear friend Ravi, who lives in Sri Lanka, will have an opportunity to do real work on solid, major motion pictures and TV, and get paid a decent wage. He's talented, motivated and just a really cool guy. He deserves an opportunity to work on tentpole projects. And there are always folks who live in poor economies who may become locally wealthy. No promises, but I can see it happening.
Okay, that brings up wages. Will these houses pay what they can get away with, discriminating against those in poor countries? Or will they pay a fair wage across the board? I don't know, but in my next installment I'm going to ask. Ravi is just one of the people I know in distant countries who are talented and out of work, or being badly exploited, because they can't live near a major house for family, economic or health reasons.
I also know of talented, skilled people both in the US and abroad who are handicapped but could work from home, where going to a studio every day would be prohibitive. I've taught spinal-cord-injured young people VFX and character animation in Spain. Given an opportunity, they could support themselves. Having worked with them, I know these people are really talented and need work. Being confined to wheelchairs and possibly needing special apparatus to control their computers, they are at a disadvantage. Here is where “unfair” might well apply.
I know a young woman in Europe who can only work about 4.5 hours at a stretch because of a severe illness, and that never happens at the big houses. If she worked in the cloud, she could do it from home and sleep when she needs to. Just the opposite is true as well. I know people who like to work 12 hours straight and then crash. Working from home can be a boon for that kind of behavior. How about the mother with two children whose husband died recently? She needs to work, has the passion and talent for VFX, but also needs to be at home with her pre-schoolers. The could be a boon to her as well.
Maybe a little, but if your VFX house is on its last legs because of competition, perhaps you should stop blaming the competition and start looking inward. The solid houses are not going to be bothered one bit by these smaller (at first) cloud houses. Unfair? I think that is an overused word in this industry. Competition is fair. What's unfair is artificial market constraint.
If you're one of the thousands of VFX artists who are out of work, perhaps this is your opportunity to get back on the horse and ride it as far as you can. Can U.S. and Canadian cloud houses effectively compete with foreign houses? That remains to be seen, but I believe if they play their cards right they can.
How do these houses work? Do you have to buy your own expensive software or use bootleg software? I don't know. I'll ask, but my assumption is that the cloud house will provide you with licenses. In the last edition of the blog, we learned the the cloud house Scarecrow Visual Effects is negotiation with Adobe for a license scheme that works for their cloud house. Think of it—work from home on important TV and motion-picture projects, and get your software provided free.
Okay, I purposely haven't given you all the answers because I have yet to get them and it's good lure to get you back here. I'll be interviewing some of the powers that be in the cloud house realm. There are more of them than you might think. I'm not so sure how legit one is since they don't answer their phone during regular hours. I'll dig into it.
Next blog edition I will share what I find and give contact information. I may even do an entire blog giving each cloud house representative so many words to pitch their opportunities to you. Let me know how you feel about such a thing. It seems legit to me.
Please, if you are going blast me or the cloud houses in the comments, use your name and own up to it. You've gotten much better at that. I do not like anonymous potshots. I take this blog seriously and my drive is to help us all find answers. I'd like you to do the same. In the recent past, we've had some wonderfully helpful posts from some top people in the industry. Let's keep that up. Let's try to be as positive as possible and get people back to work.
Okay, I'm already working on interviewing people for the next blog. Finding out interesting things. I firmly believe I'm uncovering some unique opportunities for VFX artists, and possibly character animators as well. Let's talk in a coupla weeks, in the meantime, since we all enjoy the comments section, take the time to say what you think below.