OPINION: JAMES HATTIN
VFX Legion’s founder talks the company’s remote artist model
“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.
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.
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