Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Industry Panel at the VFX Festival - What Does The Future Hold?

Industry Panel discussion at the Escape Studios VFX Festival
The Industry Panel at the VFX Festival was hosted by Escape Studios Director Ian Palmer, and interviewing panel members (from left) Hector MacLeod (Glassworks), Kevin McDowell (Creative Assembly), Anna Hollinrake (Climax Studios), Dave Throssell (Fluid Pictures and Rob Holmes (The Mill) - all about the future of our industry.

So, where is the industry going, what skills are demand, and what does the future hold?

Latest Trends
Is VR the future?

The hot topic - of course - is Virtual Reality. What is it, and where is it going? The panel talked about the merits of VR - one suggesting that it might be best suited for a games platform.

Others suggested that VR still has many practical hurdles: it is "very cumbersome", and "not very flexible", especially for traditional film-makers who are used to "being able to change things easily".

Technology -vs- Creativity
Industry is "looking for artists". You can "teach technology", but "you can't teach an eye".  But, it helps to have good tech skills, especially in new areas like VR.  Other panel members suggested that "enthusiasm is key" to success in our industry, since the business is "a lot of hard work", and you've got to want it, and "be enthusiastic".

Does industry train its staff?
The "technical skillset" is changing all the time, but it's hard for industry to make time for their staff to train on new tools, because it's "hard to find the time", since training time "always seems to get lost in project work". Many staff "do online tutorials", self-studying to learn new skills, sometimes on studio time, sometimes on their own time. But in the end, "we're all going to be re-skilling", because the tech is changing constantly.

What about working as a runner?
Running is still a well-tested route into the industry.  It's a win-win situation, as long as the runners do get promoted into the industry, and it is a real route to employment. Plus, industry have "demanding clients", who "need stuff" - so runners are needed more than ever.

What about Brexit?
It's always important to find staff with the right skills - and Bexit won't change this. There is always new talent rising, and industry hires from within the UK, outside the UK, - wherever the talent lies. Some companies think very broadly - even "hiring physicists" (instead of arts graduates) who can "run Houdini", which is very physics-based.  In the old days, companies used to "meet people in the pub in Soho", and "that's how we hired", said Dave Throssel of Fluid Pictures. But that's changing now.

Hector MacLeoud is "very worried" about Brexit, because the London VFX industry is a global employer, employing talent from all over the world. The industry is very concerned about this, because visas can be very bureaucratic and hard to organise, and so there is a real risk of jobs going overseas.

What about hiring recent graduates?
Fluid Pictures likes to "hire enthusiastic students", as lots of students "are very good now", and "will work hard", so they will be "employing more students in the future".

What skills are in demand?
Hector MacLeod said that certain areas are "always hard to fill", such as "technical animators". And this is often because schools and universities "aren't teaching this".

One skill shortage that wasn't discussed at the Industry Panel was storyboarding - a consistent area of demand, which is why we're running an evening class in storyboarding starting in a few weeks. The class is taught by industry professionals, story artists working in TV animation production right here in London.

The Escape Studios Animation Blog offers a personal view on the art of animation and visual effects. To apply for our new BA/MArt starting in September 2017, follow this link.  To sign up for our evening class in storyboarding, click here. We train all our artists with practical real-world skills, to give them the best possible chance of a career in industry. To see our success stories, follow this link.

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