As de­mand for spe­cial ef­fects for films and TV grows, Chi­nese stu­dios gear up to give view­ers a bet­ter ex­pe­ri­ence, Xu Fan re­ports.

China Daily (Canada) - - LIFE -

Chi­nese mak­ers of spe­cial ef­fects for films and TV have long strug­gled with qual­ity is­sues, ac­cord­ing to their crit­ics, but some in­dus­try watch­ers now say pos­i­tive changes are afoot.

At a re­cent event in Bei­jing to launch an un­of­fi­cial re­port on the sec­tor, the spon­sors— Ent­group, an en­ter­tain­ment-re­search com­pany, and Il­lu­mina, a lead­ing spe­cial-ef­fects com­pany — pointed to the grow­ing de­mand for spe­cial ef­fects.

Sta­tis­tics show that seven of the 10 high­est-gross­ing films in the coun­try’s box-of­fice his­tory were driven by spe­cial ef­fects.

Take box-of­fice cham­pion Mon­ster Hunt. Sup­ported by a post­pro­duc­tion team of 600 mem­bers, the live-ac­tion an­i­mated ti­tle spent some 175 mil­lion yuan ($26.52 mil­lion), or 50 per­cent of its en­tire bud­get, on vis­ual ef­fects.

The tomb-dig­ging block­buster Mo­jin: The Lost Leg­end ap­plied dig­i­tal ef­fects across 1,500 shots, or 90 per­cent of the 125-minute film, to re-cre­ate the mag­nif­i­cent un­der­ground world de­picted in its name­sake novel.

“China’s an­nual box of­fice in­creased from 17 bil­lion yuan in 2012 to 44.1 bil­lion yuan in 2015, which pro­vides a ripe fi­nan­cial ground for the de­vel­op­ment of spe­cial ef­fects,” says Xu Fei, co-founder of Il­lu­mina.

The Bei­jing-based com­pany is be­hind a se­ries of block­busters with heavy dig­i­tal ef­fects, such as Tsui Hark’s Young De­tec­tive Dee: Rise of the Sea Dragon and Jean-Jac­ques An­naud’sWolf Totem.

Hou Tao, vice-pres­i­dent of Ent­group, says the fast rise of do­mes­tic sci-fi ti­tles will need more lo­cal tal­ent. While more than 80 ti­tles in the genre are ex­pected to be­gin film­ing this year, the num­ber was in­signif­i­cant even two years ago.

LiRuigang, chair­man of the State­backed in­vest­ment firm China Me­dia Cap­i­tal, says spe­cial ef­fects will be widely used by do­mes­tic film­mak­ers in the fu­ture.

“Even for non-fan­tasy films, vis­ual ef­fects are needed to raise the over­all pic­ture qual­ity and save costs,” Li told me­dia last week, when an­nounc­ing CMC’s pur­chase of a stake in Base FX, a lead­ing stu­dio cred­ited with 20 per­cent of the vis­ual ef­fects for Star Wars: The Force Awak­ens.

Though the sec­tor has come a long way in China in the past few years, an over­whelm­ing num­ber of TV se­ries and films are still un­der crit­i­cism for “50 per­cent” spe­cial ef­fects.

The term, coined by Chi­nese In­ter­net users, refers to half-baked cre­ative at­tempts and low-cost post­pro­duc­tion that lead to jar­ring im­ages on screen.

Xu sug­gests that Chi­nese stu­dios should im­prove their knowl­edge of spe­cial ef­fects.

Usu­ally it takes be­tween 12 and 18 months for work on spe­cial ef­fects in Hol­ly­wood re­lated to fan­tasy epics or sci-fi thrillers.

But in China, stu­dios leave rel­a­tively lesser time for post­pro­duc­tion, in­clud­ing for ef­fects, af­ter a film has been shot.

Even for non-fan­tasy films, vis­ual ef­fects are needed to raise the over­all pic­ture qual­ity and save costs.”

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