What I tell myself everyday.

To all the people watching, I can never ever thank you enough for the kindness to me, I'll think about it for the rest of my life. All I ask is one thing, and this is.. I'm asking this particularily of young people that watch: Please do not be cynical. I hate cynicism - for the record it's my least favorite quality, it doesn't lead anywhere. Nobody in life gets exactly what they thought they were going to get. But if you work really hard and you're kind, amazing things will happen. I'm telling you, amazing things will happen." - Conan 'O'Brien

March 8, 2012

the economics of animation industry. part 2

 Its been a while since this post or even any posts..... But the industry have been changing very rapidly in the last 6 months

Dreamworks is opening in China, Rhythm and Hues opening a couple in Taiwan.

Rumors abound of more US/UK companies setting up shop all around Asia. Yes sire.. exciting times ahead for these countries.

Cheaper eager workers, no union laws, pro business environment. Higher skilled and better quality workers compared to 5 years ago. You can understand the sentiment of the companies to re-locate or move some of the operations to Asia.

There is still a huge gap of inexperienced and raw but talented guys that will take effort and lots of logistics to make them production ready. But the cost savings are worth it.

Pretty much the same path going down as manufacturing and most service based industry.

Even in Vancouver, there are multiple VFX houses and animation companies setting shop.

Sure as it sounds, its a big migration of work out of US/UK. Obviously what is happening is a phenomenon that is not exclusive to the CG/VFX/animation industry. But almost to all industry that is labor intensive with compartmentalise and specialised skillsets.

This does make a lot of guys in US/UK considering the need to move overseas where the jobs/paycheques are.

The most common and challenging issues of being a satellite studio are quite interesting.

Often they are getting the pipeline up to a working level and proving that the satellite studio can do a competent job. With the hope that better jobs,more interesting shots will come into the studios. Often the conflict of interest is that the guys in the main studio would want the cool shots to be done at the main studios since they want the cool shots too. And if the satellite studio is doing better, it can raise some doubts. (Especially since the satellite studio is going to be cheaper) Obviously that is part of human nature regardless of how they would feel.

Of course having to move a family to live in a new country provides lots of challenges for the spouse and the kids. That is why a lot of the oversea guys are relatively young with no kids. Taking on the opportunities to take on supervisory or lead/senior positions that might not be available.

From the other perspective of here is that they have a chance to work on big tent pole movies there they never had a chance to work before. For quite a few, animation is a way out of hope to a better living instead of the trodden path of administrators, engineers and factory workers. (If they are good enough.)

Often with the lower end of it being fresh graduates and interns in the lower income countries, most of the time working on the lower rung of tv shows or tvcs. And the more experienced ones with a few years of industry experience.

If you are on any of the LinkedIn 3D/CG/VVFX mailing groups, you can see lots of these artists from the countries asking for work and requesting for critique. With the salary range for a average cg artist in Asia can start from US$150 up to US$3000. It can be a huge incentive to continue going upwards.

But again, a recurring issue is that after a few shows, repetition and overwork sets in.
 The most common danger for artistes that people will get caught in a rapidly stagnating and repetitive work environment. Doing the same roto/matchmove or painting out the nipples/wrinkles can only be so "exciting" even on the most gorgeous actor/actress/big hollywood movie. Obviously companies will attempt to keep the artists at the lowest rate (or fairest) rather possible, and get more bang for the buck. Obviously if you have a limited skillset, you at the mercy of the company.

Nevertheless it still also allows the opportunities for a springboard to get out of the lower paid jobs to a higher overseas gig. Even within Asia itself, from cheap made for local TV shows to the more establish satellite studios can represent a salary increase of 2-5 folds. (Provided they are good/driven enough.)

The exposure to technologies, techniques and professional production pipeline is a huge transfer of knowledge in a rapidly expending industry and it is a good thing for the industry as a whole. As people with a higher exposure of techniques and the ability to use them will raise higher if they are driven and motivated enough (with enough sufficient talent to boot). That is why the need to be in a studio that you can improve and learn from is ever so important. And be constantly improving.

I truly believe the great equaliser is the inherent talent and the opportunities that are only presenting now to the cg artists that have the ability and drive to succeed.

With the way that the industry is heading in the next 10 years. This will become a norm. At least for the next few years, the big satellite studios will have the pick of the crop. And will be able to keep the salary low because they got all the cards on the deck.

But I believe that as the quality of work increases, the salary will increase because of competition and the fight for better, more talented and experienced individuals.

Note : This is merely my personal observation of the state of affairs. I am neither for or against the movement of the industry.


  1. "But it also allows the opportunities for a springboard to get out of the lower paid jobs to a higher overseas gig."

    What overseas gig? If that much of it's migrating to Asia, then what gigs are they hoping to land in the west?

  2. Weird as it may sound, Studios are always hiring and on the lookout for talent. Especially hungry, talented and hardworking individuals. Even in the US/UK, it is a internationally diverse mix. There will always be opportunities to work at these places if you are good enough.

    And I do not think overseas meant US/UK exclusively. But overseas to NZ, Australia. Even to Singapore.(although the fucking rent is stupid) The increase in salary can be make a substantial difference in the bank account and futures of these people.

  3. Meanwhile, some successful directors are questioning the need to make movies at all when games are more profitable and Hollywood is becoming even more ruthless in an effort to compete.
    However, game production is in it's own 'race to the bottom' with distributed teams creating content or modding existing games for free.
    The saturation of free to play IP on mobile devices and indie content on youtube.tv points to a near future where studios are no longer the taste makers and sponsors of content creation.

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  5. Thank you very much for your link, Ben. It is very imaginative. And most importantly fun to watch!