In the wake of this year's Academy Awards, the VFX industry's health, or lack thereof, became one of the hot topics in Hollywood. Although many sympathetic observers took to Facebook and Twitter to show their support for their colleagues and friends, little has changed for visual effects artists. Without a union or trade association to collectively bargain for better wages and workplace conditions, they hold almost no leverage in their efforts with producers and studios to protect their livelihood.
How to Train Your Animation Student
As universities flooding the job market with scores or lower-cost replacements, it's difficult to envision a happy ending for our VFX brethren. And that problem is compounded when you consider the quality of work from these talented young artists. Case in point: the short film How to Train Your Robot, a two-minute CGI spectacle from Warsaw's Platige Academy, CDProjekt and the Polish Film Institute, that impressively apes Hollywood conventions. It's a take-off of the big budget flop Real Steel, but with more convincing images and a better sense of humor. I suppose there's no way to know how successful any production will be before the outset, but the intensive process represented a sort of baptism by fire as the students worked to achieve the project's lofty ambitions.
Best of the best, but to what end?
According to CGSociety, the short started with a selection process, as only 16 of 140 students would get the privilege to work on the project. Those chosen were then divided between two working groups, Asset-Creating and Rendering/Compositing, who worked with an experienced mentors to oversee the production that spanned several months.
How to Train Your Robot is a stunning example of what young artists can do with guidance and access to professional tools. But one has to wonder if the success of this short and others like it may damage the preception that the VFX artists are in any way 'special'. In short, are these talented students sowing the seeds for the collapse of the very industry they hope to one day join?
Probably not. Because what's clear from this film is that while it may now be possible to make a short CGI work in circumstances like this - it still isn't easy.
Here's the film, followed by a "making of" video.