Globalisation of the VFX Industry

Globalisation of the VFX Industry

How VFX artists can seize the opportunities of this changing landscape

Did any of you see the article published a few days ago in the Los Angeles Times entitled “Reliance and Digital Domain partner to open new studios in U.K. and India”? This story is obviously pretty good news for the studios involved and artists in the UK and India will read it with interest. But what actually caught my attention in this story is the way in which studios in competing geographies are working together to create new opportunities.

Globalisation of the VFX industry is a topic which has received a lot of attention over the past few years – not all of it positive and much of it focused on the move towards outsourcing to India. The picture of this changing landscape is in actual fact much more subtle and complex than some people would have you believe. And while this does present some challenges for VFX artists, it also opens up a host of new opportunities for those prepared to embrace these inevitable changes.

First let’s take a look at the emergence of new VFX centres of excellence across the world. Here is a pretty useful site where you can actually see how all the CG studios are distributed worldwide – the more you zoom the more detail you get on where they are located. This is a pretty good place to start and it is very consistent with the picture that we have seen emerge over the last few years. The US still dominates the market with major centres in Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York. The UK comes in second place, and other centres have grown in countries such as Canada and India. The growth witnessed in the UK and in Canada has been fuelled by very advantageous tax breaks, and has provided artists with many job opportunities. Skilled artists in both these countries are in high demand and this trend is set to continue. 

Growth in India on the other hand has been fuelled by very different dynamics. It has come about as a result of two clear factors. First of all the need for VFX studios in the Western World to drive cost down, and secondly a drive by the Indian government to replicate the successes of IT outsourcing to other industries where getting access to skilled labour at competitive rates is key. We can spend a lot of time debating the issue of outsourcing to India and how it has affected the VFX labour market in the US, but you have to hand it to the Indians, they have put together a very compelling business case for outsourcing – especially in areas such as 3D conversion.

So what does it all mean for VFX artists the world over? Well, the first thing to point out is that the requirement for VFX in film, TV and commercials is continuing to grow. Our appetite for this sort of content is insatiable and the emergence of new Internet channels where we consume this content will continue to fuel this growth. That’s good news for VFX artists, because ultimately, more of them will be needed the world over to create this content.

As in every other walk of life, embracing change is key to being successful. Artists in more mature VFX centres like LA or London where the most cutting edge effects will continue to be produced, will do well providing they are willing to adapt. That starts with making sure that they keep their skills up to date. This is something that we see many artists paying particular attention to at the moment and we have never seen as many professional VFX artists taking up our evening courses as in the last six months. This is a clear sign that they have understood the necessity to compete on skills – especially in a market that relies so heavily on freelance labour. Those of you who want to find out more about what creative professionals think of training and its role in career advancement should read our recently published Creative Futures report.

Mobility is the other key factor that can make you more employable. The globalisation of this industry has seen many artists move from LA to London and vice versa, in search of the best paid jobs and the most exciting projects to work on.

I’d love to get your take on these changes and how you are all adapting to these new dynamics.

4 Comments Dom Davenport

Posted by
Dom Davenport
Thu 14 Jul 2011: 8:23am

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  • Raja:

    Labour intensive work comes to the asian countries while the exciting challenging creative stuff still stays back at the west ie like 3D conversion. So its basically the dilemma of labour work or creative work for asian vfx artists.

  • VFXSoldier:

    Hi thanks for the post.

    I disagree that VFX is a "global" industry. While it is a mobile industry, I would argue It's more of a "rent seeking" industry: US studios want VFX work done in subsidized locations. These are regions where the governments give taxpayer money to US studios to lure the work there.

    Given this, the VFX industry has become very volatile in mobility. Artists are bouncing from New Zealand, UK, LA, and Vancouver all in a very short span. This is great if you are young but how do you manage this having a family? What about owning a home? What about owning anything that doesn't fit into your suitcase for that matter?

    So students who want to get into this industry have to ask themselves: Why put yourself into debt taking classes for a career that doesn't support longevity?

  • Isabelle Duarte:

    Couldn't have put it better myself. Thanks for your comment Sofus.

  • Sofus Graae:

    Very positive to see a more nuanced picture being painted here rather than the bloated horror scenarios a majority seems convinced the situation is driving us towards. One of the biggest challenges I see with vfx professionals is their missing acknowledgment of the fact we are providing a commercial service which is driven by a global economy.

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