Thursday, January 31, 2013

A quick look at the UK's VFX industry

Although not investigating the actual working process of VFX companies, I came across these articles writing about how although the industry in the UK (London specifically) is huge and in many ways doing very well, it's also facing problems, ranging from a lack of focussed education for students leading to poorly trained graduates to rivalry from other major cities across the world.

"Cinesite, one of the more prominent VFX companies in London, has since 2009 offered an internship programme for students who have graduated (or are about to graduate) with degrees in the arts, or programming, with the hope of identifying new talent. On the day that visits Cinesite -- to see one of the sessions where hopeful candidates can see examples of winning work and ask questions of Cinesite's experience staff -- a showreel breaks down the effects used on John Carter. It's one of many modern films where filming primarily takes places in front of a green screen, and the effects are added later in post-production.

The students ask questions at the end, but very few of the accents are British. Spanish, French, Russian, and South African, yes; Yorkshire, Cornish, Liverpudlian, Northern Irish, no. While the UK's reputation for producing quality VFX is justified, its ability to produce the students who can work at these companies is lacking. Internships for kids leaving school at 16 are rarer than they used to be, and the education system does not offer specialisation in the kinds of skills that the VFX industry craves."
It's always beneficial to get an idea of what sort of problems these industries face 'in the real world'. VFX companies have evolved from being viewed as people "trying to run a hobby as a business" to a very important part of the economy, but it seems that they still aren't widely regarded as viable career paths and in many ways go unnoticed by students. This, on top of the fact that the industry requires students who have a rare combined talent for both the technical and creative sides of the process, means that there is a lack of British workers in the field.
"Double Negative's Franklin argued: "The big thing is getting the message out there that this industry exists; that this is not just a Hollywood product. The kind of people we need are those with technical and maths skills, and creative skills. It's difficult to find those people." Vaizey pointed to a speech by universities minister David Willetts arguing that "arts" should be added to the idea of the "STEM" subjects (science, technology, engineering and mathematics), making "STEAM", as evidence that the government is taking this demand for a wide range of skills seriously in its review of education policy."

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