compositing pros are excited about new tools offering a lower cost of entry

C’mon down: compositing pros are excited about new tools offering a lower cost of entry

Ann Fisher

Three factors will define the compositing landscape in 2005. First is the continued rise of lower-cost, yet quite capable, equipment that is altering the price point of compositing and the ramifications of this cannot be understated. The second factor, increasing HD work, is pushing the market in the opposite direction from the first, making the high-end tools perhaps even more vital. The third factor is more artistic than financial: the integration between 3D work and compositing is expected to reach new heights in ’05


Inferno Artist/Special Effects


Santa Monica, CA


STRENGTHS: “In a lot of cases, compositing is still a little underutilized. People are starting to realize how much stuff compositing can do. I think it relates especially to the CG world–compositing can save you a lot of time in CG by fixing things when deadlines get really tight. Every week the deadlines get tighter and tighter and people expect things to get done faster and faster.”

WEAKNESSES: “Time compression is a never-ending thing. The second that everybody works 20 hours a day for weeks on end to get something done, everyone thinks that’s the norm. As deadlines get compressed and people expect more to happen in the same time and for less money, we’re having to diversify more in terms of the level of platforms we have. Although we have a lot of [Discreet] Inferno seats and still feel here that’s the way to go, there are jobs that other [cheaper] software [Discreet Combustion, Apple Shake] are able to handle quite well. There are some new products on the horizon that are going to aim a little bit below the Inferno segment of the market.”

OPPORTUNITIES: “We’re integrating a lot more with the 3D side of things. Compositing is becoming a lot more aware of the 3D environment. A greater percentage of the compositing work we do involves some element of CG. In terms of the tools and that integration, there’s definitely a lot more coming along and slowly getting into the software that helps, like 3D tracking. That can help immensely in compositing, just being able to have somebody else on some other platform give you a camera move and then you plug that into your shot and then suddenly everything tracks.

“The other thing in terms of the money, things like the lower-end Linux platform. It happened a while ago on the CG side of things, but it’s happening more and more on the compositing end. Even high-end people like Discreet are starting to roll out Linux products. Smoke and Flint are on Linux now. It’s bringing the entry point for that level of software down. Combine that with the fact that these cheaper pieces of software are becoming better and able to take over some of the work. At the same time, even the higher-end software is migrating to lower-end platforms and becoming more affordable.”

THREATS: “There’s still no substitute for personal collaboration. When people are together in the same place, it always works better. Something that the lower-end platforms will do is probably allow more off-site work to be done since people will be able to have a machine in their garage that they work on.”

OUTLOOK FOR 2005: “As long as people are able to diversify (projects and tools) there’s still plenty of work out there. What has happened in this country in the last couple of years is this whole cinema advertising thing. I grew up in Britain and that was just part of going to the movies. But it’s really exploding, it’s almost too much at the cinema. It was a novelty for a year and now you have to watch a half hour of commercials.”


Creative Director

Steele VFX

Santa Monica, CA


STRENGTHS: “There are a lot more ways of doing the same thing these days and, to a degree, that might affect the more paranoid members of the community, but for the more established ones, it actually helps us because it just means the cream rises higher. The talent and the talent pool is strong, it’s healthy, there’s plenty of new kids coming into the market, and there’s been more emphasis on education. You’ll see many more compositing tools within the design world, which are becoming mainstream.”

WEAKNESSES: “These are the same as threats. I don’t think the deadlines have shortened, I think the budgets have shortened, which isn’t so bad really because the expenses, the machines, have dropped as well. The whole scale has dropped. It means less insurance, which is a good thing. I don’t see any weaknesses. I’m a very positive guy.”

OPPORTUNITIES: “We’re perched right on the edge of this HD explosion, and whether we go for HD or whether we go all the way up to 2K is beside the point. We are all ready to go and we’re excited about it and we’re all pushing that envelope as far as we can, whether the deliverables are HD or film or video. We’re trying to push ourselves, which is very healthy because it’s not like we’re responding to anything. It’s an internal drive of the talent pool that wants us to achieve better things which is obviously excellent.”

THREATS: See “Weaknesses.”

OUTLOOK FOR 2005: “[I think] ’05 is questionable. We could take a slump, everybody could sit back on their heels and say, ‘There’s no gains here, let’s just bail.’ Or we could go the opposite way and have huge subsidies thrown into our industry–maybe get some film work coming back down into the lower end of this marketplace. I’d love to see more commercials in the theater for instance. It’s slowly happening. Across Europe, we’ve had this thing for 25 years. It’s not as fast as it really should be and the opportunities there are absolutely huge. That’s a totally untapped market.”


Inferno Artist


San Francisco & Santa Monica, CA


STRENGTHS: “The technology is amazing. With what’s out there, you can pretty much do anything you can imagine. That’s the exciting part of it, getting really creative clients coming in and wanting you to go nuts. That’s when it’s fun, when they come to you with ideas. Having good talent around you makes it flow. I just completed a Ford job and we worked hand-in-hand with the CG guys and they helped out tremendously. We had a really short turnaround and we just busted our butts and got the job out the door and the client was very happy.”

WEAKNESSES: “[On the Ford job] we had a short turnaround and that really hampers the job because you want to put out quality work but you end up cutting corners to make the deadline and that’s one of the biggest weaknesses.”

OPPORTUNITIES: “With the advent of HD, that’s going to commit more time to Inferno because they’re large projects.”

THREATS: “I was thinking desktop systems–lower end compositing systems–are getting to be more prevalent. I think of it as 10 years ago or more when desktop publishing came out and everybody was doing it, the quality went down, everybody’s rates went down and it really hurt that industry. But then you got a lot of crap and you got through that and the people who really knew what they were doing rose back to the top. People trying to do it cheaper and not putting out a good product–that’s probably the biggest threat.”

OUTLOOK FOR 20005: “If advertising budgets are cut back, that’s going to hurt us, it hurts everybody. Definitely more integration between CG and compositing. The way CG helps now, it just makes it seamless. There’s CG probably in so many commercials you don’t even know.”






STRENGTHS: “The biggest trend that’s going on this past year–most driven by Apple’s new program Motion–is the push back to doing things in realtime. In the last few years with more realtime capabilites in desktop NLE video systems, now with programs like Motion, people are coming back to the expectation of doing everything in realtime again. That’s going to be a real driver now in the compositing industry.

“Another trend is clients wanting or expecting more 3D in their projects, not necessarily a full 3D world or characters, just a sense of dimension and of “being in a world” or space.”

WEAKNESSES: “The desktop machines taking on more realtime capabilities is going to continue to put a much harder pinch on the large post houses. Obviously they’ve been under strain the last few years anyway but the main business model of a post house is: ‘We have the gear you can’t afford to buy.’ But the advantage of that gear is dwindling as the desktop machines become more realtime.”

OPPORTUNITIES: “Certainly faster computers mean that our design ideas will be even less limited. That’s a fun opportunity. There’s probably an opportunity for more freelancers who want to start moving in-house, who are tired of doing it completely on their own. Going back to the model of studios that are used to going out of house maybe having to take on staff, I think you’re going to hear. ‘We need to have our own in-house compositing person.'”

THREATS: “An old saying, ‘There’s always room for two people in the market–the cheapest and the best.’ I think that programs like Apple’s Motion are going to seduce a lot of lower-end clients into thinking they don’t need to hire graphic artists. It’s like the early days of desktop publishing in that regard. I think it’s probably going to take a few years to work through that.”

OUTLOOK FOR 2005: “The economy can be very uncertain. I think everyone’s getting back to a wait-and-see mode. In general, I think the economic rally has petered out and everyone thought it was going to keep going up. So there’s some uncertainty. Is ’05 going to see it turn back up again or see it go back down? I think people are holding back to see.”


COPYRIGHT 2005 Gale Group