VFX Le­gion’s founder talks the com­pany’s re­mote artist model

3D World - - CONTENTS -

“VFX Le­gion takes the time to work with clients From the Very be­gin­ning of a project, or From the ear­li­est stages that we can get in­volved”

T he idea for VFX Le­gion was bounc­ing around my head well be­fore the tech caught up to my am­bi­tions. As early as 2000, I was try­ing to fig­ure out how to tap the po­ten­tial of new tech­nol­ogy to cre­ate a de­cen­tralised re­mote busi­ness model.

Elim­i­nat­ing the need for tal­ent to work un­der a stu­dio’s roof was clearly the next log­i­cal step in the evo­lu­tion of the in­dus­try. It was the only way to bring to­gether a large, di­verse and ex­pe­ri­enced team of artists, and po­si­tion a com­pany to meet the de­mand of the ever-in­creas­ing num­ber of tele­vi­sion shows and films pro­duced each year.

I was work­ing in Santa Mon­ica at Filmw­erks Stu­dio, and at the time, the way to move large amounts of data was large RAID stor­age sys­tems and re­dun­dancy. The in­ter­net was still far too slow to move DPX/ PICT frames across the globe with the speed that pro­duc­tions de­manded. But it would only be a mat­ter of time be­fore the World Wide Web evolved – and that in­evitabil­ity seeded the idea be­hind Le­gion.

Flash for­ward 13 years. We founded Le­gion Stu­dios in 2013 with the sole in­tent of work­ing on vis­ual ef­fects from any­where in the world. Util­is­ing cost-ef­fec­tive, off-theshelf tools and soft­ware, we were able to push plates back and forth at ex­treme speeds for the day. Hosted on a fi­bre line, we could stream shots out se­curely to each artist, no mat­ter where they were lo­cated around the globe. Track­ing their work via Shot­gun, we had a com­pletely re­mote work cy­cle from start to fin­ish, all with se­cu­rity pro­vided by IBM’S Aspera tools (now Me­dia Shut­tle).

That was five years ago, and we’re still go­ing strong to­day. While Le­gion’s back­bone re­mains our dis­trib­uted global net­work of vet­eran artists, which has been well-honed in the time since, many of our pro­cesses have evolved to in­clude new tools and tech­nol­ogy and meet chang­ing client needs.

Evolv­ing pro­cesses

Some of our ba­sic tools are the same, but a whole suite of com­ple­men­tary web-based tools has been cre­ated to con­trol the flow of data, se­cu­rity, billing and in­fra­struc­ture. We now have a full-time pro­gram­mer on­board to build new tools to help ease the repet­i­tive strain for our co­or­di­na­tors, who are all on­site at our home base in Bur­bank, Cal­i­for­nia. On top of that, there are many web-based tools for our myr­iad artists to stay in­formed about each project, sched­ule their avail­abil­ity, and in­voice for the work that has been done.

New artists of­ten tell us that work­ing with Le­gion is seam­less and easy. It’s pain­less, and that’s the way it needs to be: if we’re mak­ing it dif­fi­cult for a skilled artist to lend his or her tal­ents to our cause, then we’re not do­ing our jobs right. Luck­ily, that’s al­ways been a pri­or­ity for us, and these days, there’s al­ways a wealth of in­for­ma­tion avail­able to our con­trib­u­tors. We also com­mu­ni­cate in many dif­fer­ent ways, whether it’s via Dis­cord chat, Zoom video con­fer­enc­ing, or emails. Ev­ery artist has a di­rect line to the co­or­di­na­tor and pro­ducer on a project, so there’s no dis­con­nect be­tween the in-house team and our out-of-house tal­ent.

com­mu­ni­ca­tion is key

A large part of main­tain­ing a suc­cess­ful vis­ual ef­fects busi­ness is to be re­spon­sive

to client needs, and be proac­tive as much as pos­si­ble. VFX Le­gion takes the time to work with clients from the very be­gin­ning of a project, or from the ear­li­est stages that we can get in­volved.

If we start with the script, then we are there for all of the meet­ings and can of­fer creative, cost-ef­fec­tive ways to do the work and pro­vide the best bang for their buck. If we be­gin when the show is in post, then we work closely with the di­rec­tor or show run­ner to en­sure that we get a look and style that works for them. In ei­ther case, we want to be a full-ser­vice creative part­ner for clients; hav­ing re­mote artists doesn’t mean that we’re a face­less part of the process.

Com­mu­ni­ca­tion is crit­i­cal, and that’s dou­bly true with pos­i­tive com­mu­ni­ca­tion. This in­dus­try is cer­tainly hard enough to get by in on a day-to-day ba­sis: but we work to re­move that po­ten­tial for client frus­tra­tion. We al­ways en­sure that work­ing with a ven­dor like VFX Le­gion is an easy ex­pe­ri­ence, and one that gen­er­ates the kind of con­tent that every­one can be proud of.

hy­brid so­lu­tions

VFX Le­gion has changed a lot of things about work­ing in vis­ual ef­fects and our abil­ity to work at scale. Any guy or gal in a garage can do a lot of work at a low price, but while we set out to be com­pet­i­tive on cost, we also prided our­selves from the start on main­tain­ing a high bar of qual­ity. Our artists have been all over the VFX in­dus­try and con­trib­uted to block­buster projects from world-renowned stu­dios, and now they’re pour­ing all of that ex­pe­ri­ence into our work.

We now of­fer an en­tire pipe­line ded­i­cated to episodic tele­vi­sion and fea­ture films, with the abil­ity to do matte paint­ings, dy­nam­ics, space­ships, ex­plo­sions, wa­ter and driv­ing comps. From the very start, we wanted to do ev­ery­thing and we wanted the best peo­ple in the world to be able to work on that, re­gard­less of lo­ca­tion.

At the end of the day, we got all of that – and then we built a fa­cil­ity for ex­trahigh lev­els of se­cu­rity here in Bur­bank, so that we can be a truly hy­brid fa­cil­ity that si­mul­ta­ne­ously de­liv­ers on cost, qual­ity and se­cu­rity. The choice of re­mote or lo­cal work is up to the pro­duc­ers, while the joy of work­ing with ta­lented peo­ple to ex­press a vi­sion is all ours to savour. Find out more about VFX Le­gion at www.vfxle­gion.com

VFX le­gion’s di­verse col­lec­tive of tal­ent spans the globe, en­abling high-qual­ity VFX

com­pos­i­tor am­ber Wil­son works from her home in new Zealand

matthew lynn, le­gion’s VFX su­per­vi­sor

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